[UPDATED] Kidnap probe leads to shootout: Cops kill 4

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Undertakers going into a forested area in St Augustine to retrieve the bodies of four men who were killed in a shootout with police on May 23. – ROGER JACOB

HOURS after doubles vendor Anisha Hosein was freed by her kidnappers, investigating officers following leads in St Augustine killed four men in a shootout.

Up to May 23, Newsday could not confirm the identities of the four men.

Hosein was kidnapped on May 18 by armed men in El Dorado and was freed on May 22.

Senior police officials said based on intelligence they received during their investigation, they went to a forested area at the end of St Michael’s Road off St John’s Road in St Augustine in the morning on May 23.

Newsday understands residents reported hearing a volley of gunshots at around 10 am.

The area, also known as “The Zone,” is frequented by members of the Resistance gang and was one of many places searched by police in their bid to rescue Hosein.

Speaking during an impromptu press conference at the scene, head of the North Central Division Senior Supt Richard Smith said the intelligence came as a result of the police “shaking a lot of trees” after Hosein’s kidnapping.

“This incident that occurred here in the forest is a culmination of our efforts because, from Saturday, we have been tapping on our technological aspect of the TTPS, as well as the intelligence-led policing, as well as all the arms of the TTPS that was involved in this investigation.

He said while the death of the four men was “disheartening,” it was the possible “end result” of people choosing a life of crime.

“I’m urging the persons who intend on entering this life of crime to please take another step, take another choice. Don’t take this path because it may end up like this.

“It’s not a threat. But we are here to ensure that we protect the lives of the innocent citizens outside there, and we will be relentless in our pursuits and we will continue to do our work whenever and whatever it takes.”

He said the police are adopting a zero-tolerance approach as it relates to violent crimes.

“We are mandated and we have pledged to this nation to bring down violent crimes, and we, in fact, intend to do just that. So, as bad as it may sound, some people may succumb, but we will not take these things lightly… It’s time we take back our country because we cannot give it up to these criminals.”

From left DCP Intelligence and Investigations Suzette Martin; Anti-kidnapping Unit head Darryl Ramdass; Senior Supt Richard Smith; and public relations officer Insp Michelle Lewis speak to reporters at Upper St Michael’s Road, St Augustine after four men were killed in a shootout with police. – ROGER JACOB

Smith said police recovered a pistol and an automatic rifle from the scene of the shootout.

Asked why four men were dead if only two guns were recovered, Smith said the killings would be properly investigated.

“In every instance where we have police shootings, we have an investigator assigned, a first division officer who investigates. We also have oversight by Police Complaints Authority and even Professional Standards Bureau, so at this stage, I wouldn’t want to speculate because I was not there at the time when the shootout take place.

“We have oversight by these agencies and I know that a fair investigation will be done as it relates to the shooting.”

He said he believed there are people connected with the kidnapping who have not yet been identified.

“Although Anisha has been released and is safely home, our investigation continues until we get every single one of these. Based on our investigations, we believe that there are more persons and we are, in fact, pursuing these persons.”

No gang involvement confirmed

Despite the area being a known Renaissance gang hotbed, Head of the TT Police Service Anti-kidnapping Unit Daryl Ramdass said he was unable to confirm the involvement of any particular gang in the kidnapping.

“We have intelligence operations. We are guided by intelligence units providing that kind of data for us, and we are working assiduously to bring that to some fruition, confirmation and action items.”

Residents near the scene of Thursday’s shooting had little to say to the media, with one man saying, “We does try to hold we own in here because of the gang presence in the area.”

Smith was asked if he was aware of any possible connection between the kidnapping and the recent discovery of gang-installed CCTV cameras on light poles in the North Central policing division.

“We are seeing a connection there because it’s where we see that they are monitoring our actions, monitoring the police actions, and that’s our belief as it relates to the cameras. They were placed on the T&TEC polls without permission. So we see this as some form of monitoring of the TTPS and at least we were able to remove them from these poles.

“We have also shared this information with our counterparts in the other divisions, and they, too, are working on locating and removing these cameras from these places.”