Defence attorneys Israel Khan, SC, Arissa Maharaj and Ulric Skerritt at the Hall of Justice, Port of Spain, on Tuesday. – Photo by Jada Loutoo
The man prosecutors alleged was the police’s intended target in a shooting that left three Moruga friends dead in 2011 says only God knows why he was not in the car at the time.
On Tuesday, Shumba James testified for the prosecution in the trial of the six police officers charged with the murders of best friends, Abigail Johnson, 20, of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, Alana Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, and construction worker Kerron “Fingers” Eccles, 29, also of St Mary’s Village, on July 22, 2011.
Duncan was James’s common-law wife.
Charged with their murder are Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman, and Antonio Ramadin.
In his opening statement at the start of the trial in July, lead prosecutor Gilbert Peterson, SC, said the events that unfolded on the day the three were shot to death surrounded James.
Peterson said hours before the shooting, one of the officers was contacted by two of his seniors and told they were building a case against James for murder.
On the day of the killing, James went to the St Mary’s police post where he had to report three times weekly as part of his bail conditions for a case. He used his brother’s white Nissan B15.
Duncan was with him and after leaving the police station, the couple went to a bar where Duncan called Johnson while Eccles joined them at another bar.
On their way to purchase barbecue in Barrackpore, James caught up with two friends and left in their Toyota while Johnson, Duncan and Eccles followed in his brother’s car.
On Tuesday, he said, “God alone knows,” why he was not in his brother’s car when the three were shot when asked by lead defence attorney Israel Khan, SC.
“Why did you change your car? You were supposed to be in your brother’s car,” Khan put to James during his cross-examination.
James said the car he was in was a short distance in front of his brother’s car when he saw a group he believed to be police officers holding a roadblock close to Rochard Douglas Road. As the car passed the group, he said he heard someone say, “Look the car.”
“It came from the man and them by the road.”
He said he then heard explosions seconds later.
In their defence, the officers are contending that they acted in self-defence as they claimed the three friends shot at them, and they returned fire.
However, in his testimony, James said he “did not see anybody fire shots from my brother’s car.”
“I would say no.”
James also said he did not hear anyone say, “Today, you dead Shumba,” nor did he see anyone come out of his brother’s car or hear anyone say, “Shoot again.”
In his cross-examination, James admitted he only gave a statement to the police two years after the incident because he went into hiding.
“I went into hiding…I was hiding from the police.”
He also said the charge for which he spent five years in prison – 2005-2010 – and had to report to the police station was eventually dismissed by a High Court judge in a judge-only trial. Last month, James was found not guilty of a robbery that allegedly took place in Princes Town on July 14, 2005.
He also did not know that the car he borrowed from his brother was a stolen vehicle as alleged by the defence.
“I am not aware.”
The trial continues on Thursday.
Presiding over it is Justice Carla Brown-Antoine at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain. The officers are also represented by Ulric Skerritt and Arissa Maharaj.
Special prosecutor Elaine Green and State prosecutors Giselle Ferguson-Heller and Katiesha Ambrose-Persadsingh are with Peterson for the State.