Murdered teen’s family tells gunmen: You don’t have to be on that life

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

18-year-old Jaheim Lewis who was shot dead
on Sunday March 31, 2024 near his home in
Enterprise, Chaguanas

A spokesperson for the family of 18-year-old Jaheim Lewis who was killed on Sunday is reminding young men involved in a life of crime that there are options available for them to leave that life behind.

Lewis, an aspiring footballer, was gunned down metres away from his home on Bagaloo Street, Enterprise.

He was liming in the street when his family heard gunshots and called out to him to make sure he was safe but they heard no response.

They went searching for him and found his lifeless body in a yard behind a nearby house. The spokesperson, who is close to the family, declined to share his name for fear of being targeted by negative elements in the community.

Speaking with Newsday at the Forensic Science Centre in St James, he insisted the family is not interested in any targeted reprisal killings or displays of vigilante justice.

Instead, the spokesperson said the family hoped the men involved in Lewis’ killing and other senseless crimes in the community and the wider country will try to turn their lives around.

“It have good life to live in this country. They don’t have to be on that life. It have all kind of youth programmes and it have plenty girls to lime with. You don’t have to do them (crime) thing.”

He said he could understand people involved in crime may not be able to see a way out of that life, but added if they “look outside of their bubble” they will see there are other options.

“They could learn a trade or do so much more things other than that kind of life they living.” He said while the options were plentiful, many young men, though, were not able to see the options as they were more concerned with meeting their basic daily needs.

He suggested there needed to be more community initiatives and interventions where the information was brought to the community and young men were made aware of their options.

“When they’re in it, they don’t see it. I don’t know if its lack of information. It’s accessible but being accessible versus knowing it’s there in the first place to be accessed are two different things.”

He said the young men also faced the problem of how to access the options that were available.

He suggested Lewis could be an example to the young men in the area. He said Lewis knew he didn’t want to return to school so he decided to invest his time in learning a trade which was what one of their most recent discussions centred on.

“He said he wanted to learn something because he didn’t know if he could go back out to school and he didn’t want to be home like everybody else so he decided he would go and learn a trade… He told me ‘I getting to do straightening and painting. That is a good work?’ I said yes and he started to smile.”

He said the Enterprise community has always had a stigma attached to it and incidents such as Lewis’ death affect residents.

“People are afraid to go out there and look for work because they’re from a certain area and they know people will target them. Although they’re not even in nothing, plenty little youth men they are just afraid.”

He said he always got worried any time he got a call from anyone in the family who lives there.

“Nobody ever really feels safe. It’s just a (weird) feeling because nothing does really look right down there. It does be quiet, quiet. You don’t see nobody outside like how it used to be because plenty people die out from down there.”

He said the family is still in shock as people on the street know Lewis was never involved in a life of crime.

“That just kind of shocking to know that happened to him out of everybody.” He said the Cunupia Secondary School student loved football and was aspiring to play for a club someday.

“He was quiet and he liked football. He always played football and was always trying to go somewhere to play.”

He said the community is now in upheaval after Lewis’ death. “Everybody in the whole area is traumatised with everything that going on, but they just feel like they can’t do nothing and just feel like nobody coming to help. They ain’t getting no help from no way. They don’t know where to turn.”

He said the family never planned to move and after Lewis’ death they probably still will not leave the area. He said it’s not as easy as just packing up and leaving.

“Nobody in this family ever get shoot down or anything and they just kept working and doing what they have to do. It’s just hard because you are always feeling to move out of there, you know, but to go where? They born and grow down there, the whole family is from there.”