Off-duty cop shot dead outside Couva bar

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Relatives of policeman Marlone Mitchell, who was shot dead at a Couva bar early on Friday morning, described him as a stalwart in their family. They spoke while awaiting autopsy results at the Forensic Science Centre in St James later on Friday.

“He was not a fighter,” a relative said in a brief conversation.

“But he didn’t take disrespect either. He always stood up for people and he didn’t like people who disrespected others.”

Relatives were reluctant to speak to the media but said his death came as a shock to them.

“It is surprising to us that he was even out at that hour of the night,” said one relative who did not wish to be named.

“He is not a limer.”

Police reported that gunshots were heard at about 1 am at Lolita’s bar on Mc Bean, Southern Main Road.

When they responded, they found Mitchell lying face down outside the bar with a gunshot wound to his chest. He died at the scene.

CCTV footage showed Mitchell, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue three-quarter pants, outside the bar, walking towards a vehicle. He then approaches another man who is wearing a white vest. Mitchell is holding what appears to be a gun in his hand.

The officer then strikes the man, and the two begin to fight. During the fight, Mitchell was shot.

Relatives confirmed that at the time, he had his personal, licensed firearm and it is believed the other man wrested away the weapon from Mitchell, which he then used to shoot the officer. The man involved in the incident surrendered to the Freeport Police Station on Friday afternoon.

Relatives said that the CCTV footage outside the bar only told part of the story.

They say they were told that the incident started inside the bar, where there may have been an exchange of words between Mitchell and another person. They hope that footage of what happened inside the bar could reveal more details surrounding the incident.

PSWA: DRAW ONLY IN

LIFE & DEATH SITUATION

Contacted for comment, Police Social and Welfare Association (PSWA) president Acting ASP Gideon Dickson said police officers and civilian owners of licensed firearms alike are trained to draw their weapons only in life-and-death situations.

“It is always incumbent on the firearm holder to exercise emotional intelligence in all situations. From your training, you learn that it is only in life-and-death situations do you resort to using your firearm, in order to avoid the loss of life of both yourself and others in close vicinity to you. The best practice is to think beyond the moment and only draw when it is absolutely necessary.”

President of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association Gideon Dickson. –

He extended condolences to the Mitchell family and described the situation as “unfortunate.”

“We have lost another life. This period in our country is a festive one. It should not be marred with unnecessary and senseless killing.”

No arrest has been made in the incident and Dickson called on investigators to bring the killer to justice.

“At the end of the day, it is incumbent on us as an organisation to do what is necessary to bring the perpetrator before the courts.”

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher extended condolences to Mitchell’s family in a press release on Friday.

“We stand in solidarity with them, offering our unwavering support as they mourn the loss of their loved one,” Harewood-Christopher said in the release.

She added that investigations into the matter are ongoing and assured the TTPS is committed to ensuring justice is served. She urged people with information to come forward in order to assist in the investigation.

HINDS: LEGAL GUNS IN CRIMINAL HANDS

For his part, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said he remains very concerned whenever legally registered firearms end up in the hands of criminals.

Speaking on Friday after a handing-over ceremony of new vehicles to both the TTPS and TTDF, Hinds extended condolences to Mitchell’s relatives. The ceremony was held at the Vehicle Maintenance Company’s (VMCOTT) Beetham Estate compound.

“Illegal guns in themselves are a major problem for TT and there are many instances as the (police) commissioner pointed out, where legal firearms have been converted to illegal use,” Hinds said.

National Security MinisterFitzgerald Hinds –

“It is for that reason that we have in TT espoused a restrictive policy over the decades. It is for that reason that I and others would have been condemnatory of the more liberalist approach that had been promulgated by some in society. That is a matter for ongoing discussion,” Hinds said, as he referred to the ease with which a former police commissioner had dished out firearms user’s licenses (FULs).

Hinds said the US was grappling with this issue, noting 700 mass shootings in that country last year. He recalled a recent US mass killing by an 18-year-old whose mother was convicted for facilitating this tragedy.

“Legal guns have been, can be a problem. Hence the reason I give full support to the police service and to this Government’s policy that we approach this thing a little less casually than recently transpired where we saw an explosion of access to firearms in TT by Tom, Dick, Harry and their dog.”

This year alone, at least five registered guns have been stolen from their owners in several incidents.

On January 17, PC Ravindra Harrinarine was shot dead in Bassie Street, Spring Village, Valsayn and his TTPS-issued firearm was stolen by the killers.

Last week, a businessman suffered a home invasion, and his three licensed firearms were among several items stolen from the house. And on Friday, PC Mitchell’s gun was also stolen after he was shot dead.

Hinds said that he too is awaiting the outcome of investigations into Mitchell’s murder.

“It is the loss of a citizen of TT in an explosion of violence. The matter is under investigation. It is quite fresh and therefore, it behoves me to be mindful that I should not comment, especially too fluidly upon it.

“It is a very unfortunate incident arising out of an explosion of violence, again, in our society. Firearms, again, play a critical role in this. But an investigation is surely underway and I, too, must await the outcome.”

– With reporting by SEAN DOUGLAS