Police officer among five killed at Harpe Place

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police at the scene of shooting at Harpe Place, Obseratory Street, Port of Spain on March
16 where five people were killed and three injured. PHOTOS BY Angelo Marcelle


A police sergeant is among five people who were killed on Saturday following a gang-related shooting at Harpe Place in East Port of Spain. Three of the victims died on the scene and two at the Port of Spain General Hospital. Three others were taken to hospital with gunshot injuries. Police told Newsday that the victims were liming with a group of people at 10.55 am near the entrance of the Housing Development Corporation apartment complex, off Observatory Street, when a car drove into the compound and the occupants fired a volley of gunshots.

A video by one resident showed people scampering around the compound and screaming. Video footage circulating on social media shows a man lying motionless between two cars in the car park and another victim nearby. Scores of residents and onlookers gathered and appeared to be in shock over the horrific incident.

The people who died on the scene were Rudolph James, of Beverly Hills; Randy Graves, 32, of Oxford Street, Port of Spain; and Sgt Larry Phillip, of Observatory Street. Phillip was attached to the police band. Pete Noray, 50, of Bath Street, Port of Spain, and Devon Jack, of Charford Court, on Charlotte Street, died at the hospital. The three injured are craftsman Richard Pierre, 44, of Charford Court, who received an injury to his lower back; Wendell Primus, unemployed, of Harpe Place, who was injured in the left leg, and Akina Thomas, 35, of Harpe Place, who was shot in the right shoulder.

Police and soldiers were deployed to the scene as angry residents hurled abuses at the officers. The mood of the residents remained angry several hours after the shooting, initially chasing away media personnel and later refusing to speak to them. Some said they were afraid to say anything.

Crime Scene Unit investigators recovered a variety of shell casings, including 7.62, 5.56, and 9mm calibre shells. The shell casings were found close to the entrance of the compound, but the victims were found in various places including in the courtyard, and the car park. The officer’s body was found under a staircase.

The killings bring the number of murders for 2024 to 121, equalling the 2023 figure of 121. In 2022, there were 113 murders in the same period, according to information from the Homicide Bureau. There were five other murders between Friday and Saturday, in five separate incidents across Trinidad. (see page 6)

Head of the Homicide Bureau Snr Supt Rishi Singh, who was at the scene, said the police could not give a motive for the multiple murders. “We will analyze everything and come up with the probable cause in a while, but we do believe it’s gang-related at this time. There are things we’re not prepared to put out there because we have to verify. I’m not going to say reprisal, but certainly gang-related.”

Undertakers remove one of the victims at Harpe Place, Observatory Street, Port of Spainon March 16.

Asked about the absence of the static patrols, Singh said, “Well, I understand that they were there earlier. So the patrol was out but I can’t tell you at that instance what happened. We normally maintain the presence. Of course, you know we have different calls to visit. I can’t tell you what their locations were at the point in time that the incident occurred.”

Retired police officer Nicole Neptune said she was shocked by the news of Phillip’s death. “As a fellow colleague during my stint at the police band, he was vital in bringing comfort to young officers by his cool, calm disposition, and his willingness to share his experiences in an effort to help the nervous feeling before band engagements. “He knew how to enjoy life and it was always a pleasure to chat with him whilst hanging out at the police mess. He was indeed optimistic because of his ability to believe everything would be alright, no matter what. Larry boi it’s hard to believe yuh gone.”

Politicians condemn violence

Deputy Port of Spain Mayor Abena Hartley expressed concern about the ongoing violence. “It’s really unfortunate that these communities continue to have to experience loss of life in this way. The most we could do as representatives at the local level is to continue to support the families and try our best to ensure we provide enough social programs to allow for some form of comfort for communities such as these. It’s unfortunate this continues to happen and the children in these communities are witnessing this almost on a daily basis now, very, very sad.”

Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis also condemned the brazen shooting and subsequent murders. In a release, Robinson-Regis rebuked such acts of violence in the capital city. “The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) strives to provide affordable living, and safe, communal living spaces for all of its residents. The HDC encourages all residents to live in peace, and endeavors to create a place of comfort for all. No resident should feel unsafe or held ransom in their own homes. Such attacks will not be condoned or tolerated.” The release said the police service is actively searching for the suspects. The HDC said it stands ready to assist the police to ensure those guilty of this crime are brought to justice.

HDC chairman Noel Garcia chastised the act and called for peace within Port of Spain and, by extension, the country. The corporation’s managing director Jayselle McFarlane shared similar sentiments and reflected on the long-term trauma effects this could have on those who witnessed the assault. The HDC extended condolences to the families who lost loved ones and wished a speedy recovery to those who were injured during the attack.

Speaking to the media at the PNM post-general council meeting press conference at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young said as a citizen, he was horrified by the activities of the criminal elements and in particular, what took place today. “I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sympathies and my condolences to my constituents in the Harpe immediately after this awful and tragic incident took place where a number of innocent lives were lost, including a member of the police service. I really would like to use this opportunity…as an MP, to extend my condolences. “I’m assured that the police service and law enforcement were immediately on the scene and that they have begun their investigations. And I know from the Minister of National Security, that they are working assiduously to put certain things in place that hopefully will arrest some of these situations.”