[UPDATED] Hinds on shooting: Students weren’t in danger, video ‘misleading’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds.

AS people across the country continue to express shock and outrage over primary schoolchildren having to hide under their desks during a nearby shoot-out, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds alleged the gunmen were 200 metres away from the school whose pupils were “not ever at peril of any physical danger.”

However, NTA head Gary Griffith, a former commissioner of police, sharply chided Hinds for his remarks, saying assault rifles can fire 35 bullets within seconds and kill anyone within 400 metres.

On Monday, gunmen from Argyle Street, Gonzales, tried entering Richardson Lane, Laventille, which led to a ten-minute shoot-out between rival gangs. No one was hurt or killed.

Videos of students of the Rose Hill RC Primary School being told by teachers to take cover during the gunfight went viral on social media. The school will reopen on Wednesday.

In a Facebook post, Hinds said the video was “quite misleading,” a claim he repeated in a statement in the House of Representatives on Friday.

He said some people seemed to have thought the gunmen were on the school grounds.

“They were not! In fact, the actual shooting took place about 200m away.”

Hinds said he only became aware of the video on Wednesday.

“The school administration made it quite clear that the children were not ever, from that incident, at peril of any physical danger.

“It was the trauma and fear that gripped them all.”

He said such incidents happen so often that the school authorities have pupils trained to get down whenever gunshots were heard.

“Chances are that depending on where they live, very unfortunately, they may have experienced this at home as well.”

He recalled his talks with residents on his recent visit to the school and community.

“I called on the young men, who are used as blind and misguided gophers by the gang leaders, to think about their futures and that of the children in their one families and communities.”

Griffith said Hinds’ remarks displayed his “irresponsibility and ignorance of firearms.”

Saying the children were rightfully placed to lie flat on the ground during hostile gunfire, Griffith said Hinds was “totally out of his depth” in his role to secure TT, while those advising him were “just as reckless, if not clueless in the field of security.”

He said Hinds’ remarks set “a dangerous precedent” of a minister giving improper information.

Griffith, a former Defence Force captain, said, “For clarification to the public, the effective range of a 5.56 cartridge in an automatic weapon exceeds over 400 metres.

“This means that if an innocent bystander is standing 400 metres away from where the shot was fired, and a stray round bypasses who it was intended for, such a round can easily kill that innocent citizen, including a child, on impact, hence the necessity for that teacher to correctly have them lie on the ground to make them less of a target and victim from such a stray round.”

Viewing Hinds’ remarks as “reckless and incorrect” and likely to put other citizens at risk.

“His comments, apart from being incorrect, are also insensitive and disingenuous, in addressing a clear and present danger of increasing gang warfare that uses assault weapons.”