Three years later, parents still seeking justice for Carenage schoolgirl Naomi Nelson, 14

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

SHOT DEAD: Schoolgirl Naomi Nelson. –

IT has been more than three years since 14-year-old Naomi Nelson was shot dead in a confrontation between police and alleged gunmen at Big Yard, Carenage on May 3, 2019.

However, her parents say they are nowhere close to getting justice for their daughter’s death.

Naomi was on her way to buy food when the incident happened. Two men – Kareem “Baldwin” Roberts, 27, and Keron “Frosty” Eve, 30, were also shot dead. Police claimed responsibility for Roberts and Eve’s deaths.

But they said Nelson was killed by bullets fired by either the two men or by those affiliated with them.

Nelson’s parents suspect otherwise, but all they do now is wait, pray, cry and hope for justice as they remember the child they lost.

Her father David Nelson said since the incident he has been put on antidepressants and takes other medication for insomnia. With three other children to care for, including an autistic son, he is now dependent on a monthly social welfare grant of $1,500 to survive.

Both police and the Police Complaints Authority are investigating Naomi’s death.

Newsday sought an update on the police investigation last week but was not given one up to press time.

SEEKING CLOSURE: Natasha Nelson, mother of Naomi Nelson, at her Mt Lambert home on Sunday. – AYANNA KINSALE

Asked if he believes he will ever get justice, or at the very least some answers as to who killed his first-born, David said he was hoping for the best, but doubtful.

“Right now I under medication – serious, serious medication – from that day. I can’t work, and money is not what I am accustomed to, but I am still thankful.

“So I can’t really try to keep up because I already know is failure. They should hurry up and get this thing over with because I real uncomfortable right now,” David said as he struggled to keep himself from crying.

He, like Naomi’s mother Natasha Nelson, said the police could have identified themselves to avoid unnecessary confrontation.

Police said they went to the area in an unmarked car, were shot at and had to return fire, resulting in the deaths of the two men and injuries to others, some of whom are charged with shooting at the police. One officer was grazed in the shooting.

Last Tuesday, a similar incident happened at Beetham Gardens, when a man was killed after police entered the area in an unmarked vehicle and claimed they were shot at and returned fire. In that incident Richard “Snake” Marcelle was killed. His relatives are claiming there was no shootout. They only knew it was police after his body was picked up and taken to hospital.

At a media conference last Thursday, acting DCP Wendell Williams said police on certain operations will be chaperoned by officers in the traditional blue and grey uniforms. Officers were also ordered to stop wearing balaclavas (a face covering resembling a ski mask), especially when wearing tactical uniforms.

The order came as there were increasing reports of men dressed in clothing resembling police operational wear committing several offences including kidnapping and robberies.

WHY SO LONG?: David Nelson speaks with Newsday on Sunday about the shooting death of his14-year-old daughter Naomi Nelson more than three three years ago in Carenage. – AYANNA KINSALE

Williams said then that there were no immediate instructions to curb the use of unmarked police vehicles, especially in areas with heightened gang activity.

Natasha believes that in the case of her daughter, had the police been properly identified, she would not be grieving her death.

“Them (police) know what to do. I can’t tell them, but they should identify themselves, because they are going in like criminals. They probably should put something better in place.”

She added that unmarked police vehicles should be accompanied by marked ones to avoid jumpy gangsters shooting at them, ending in the deaths of innocent people like her daughter.

Natasha, who spoke with Newsday at her Mt D’Or home, said since the death there has not been a day that passes that she does not think about her child, be it her smile, or her voice. She said the pain of losing a child is hard, but she lives one day at a time.

Nelson, who spoke with Newsday outside MovieTowne, said he found the investigation was taking unnecessarily long.

“How much years now, not three and something years now? And nobody come up with nothing? Yuh ain’t hearing nothing, yuh ain’t knowing nothing, yuh just not knowing what going on. Something is wrong somewhere.”

Nelson questioned how police were able to determine in less than a year that it was a police bullet which killed an officer in Diego Martin earlier this year, but they are still waiting to determine who killed his child.

Earlier this month PC Kristian Genty, 28, of Diego Martin was charged with murdering his colleague PC Clarence Gilkes.

Gilkes, 44, of La Resource Road, D’Abadie, was killed when he and members of the Western Division Task Force responded to a report of men armed with rifles at Upper Rich Plain Road, Diego Martin on April 22.

Police initially claimed they were fired at by a group of men and returned fire. They claimed Gilkes was killed by the assailants, and launched a manhunt for a suspect, Jehlano Romney. A post-mortem report later revealed Gilkes had been shot in the neck from behind, and a ballistics report said the bullet was fired from a police-issued gun.

“How they could find out that and they can’t find out who killed Naomi?” David asked.

“This is the part I can’t understand. This is what really baffling me and have me confused. How they can’t find out that? Why it taking so long to get this thing over with? Everybody done know what went on already.”

After taking a moment to catch himself after he began crying, David questioned how Gilkes’ ballistics report could be completed in months, and after three years and almost four months he is still awaiting answers.

In 2019, then police commissioner Gary Griffith said the ballistics report on Nelson may take up to six years to complete.

“It (slow ballistics results) is just one of the concerns that ties to this. It is out of the control of the police service, which I think is rather unacceptable,” Griffith said then. “Because when you have a situation like this, which can go on for so long, by the time they pinpoint the perpetrator he could be dead, or witnesses may no longer be willing to come forward. Which is why we have to ensure swift justice.”

At the end of the day, Natasha, like David, had one simple message for those in authority: “I just want justice for my child.”