COMMUNITY IN MOURNING: A look from the hilltop at Jeffers Lane, St James on Thursday morning after four men were shot at while liming on Wednesday night. Two of the men, Steffan Belgrave and Darnell Pierre, died. – ROGER JACOB
“A sign of the times.” This is how a relative of Darnell Pierre, one of the men killed in a drive-by shooting in St James on Wednesday night, described the incident.
Pierre, a CEPEP worker, was among a group of men liming along Jeffers Lane when a car pulled up, and its occupants started shooting.
Pierre, 28, and his childhood friend, Steffen Belgrave, 25, died while two other men were left wounded.
Newsday visited the community and spoke to relatives of both men, who asked to remain anonymous.
Pierre’s relatives described him as loving, helpful, happy and always joking.
A relative said she never expected Pierre to meet such an untimely death, as liming in the road was normal within the community.
She said the shootings have left the community distraught.
“That’s how we are in the neighbourhood. Everybody sits down outside. Since I was small, that’s how it was. These times are different, they just different.”
“This just mash up two families and mash up a whole community. This happening all over. It’s a sign of the times.”
The relative said she believes God will provide justice for his death.
“God will be the judge. God will deal with it.”
Relatives of both men lamented the crime situation.
One said, “It is just horrible. Babies will now have to grow up with a father, a mother has lost one of her children, siblings have to deal with losing their brother.”
“That is just how the country is today. It’s sad to see the country reach to this stage because innocent lives are being lost,” the relative added.
Police say Belgrave was known to them and had been arrested.
His family, however, said he did not deserve to die in this manner.
“How horrible could they have been to deserve this? That just wasn’t right. They definitely didn’t deserve this,” a relative said.
The double murders come after the country recorded eight murders in 24 hours between Sunday and Monday, pushing the murder toll for this week to ten.
On Sunday, Nester Sammy, aka Pappy, of Harding Place, Cocorite, was shot dead while seated in a car near Superpharm in Diego Martin on Sunday.
Sammy was arrested in connection with the April 15, 2018, murder of Shaquime Williams, whose body was found near Harding Place recreation ground.
Then, at around 10 pm on Sunday, Brandon Forde, 23, Chivon Clarke, 26, Brian Padmore, 27, and Kerron Moore, 31, were shot dead while liming at the corner of Smart Place and Belmont Circular Road, Belmont.
They were killed by five men who pulled alongside them in a dark-coloured SUV and opened fire.
Video footage of that incident showed the victims talking when the SUV stopped near them, and the driver and a backseat passenger began shooting.
The men attempted to run but eventually fell after being shot several times.
More men then exited the vehicle and shot the victims at point-blank range before one of the gunmen opened fire on the victims again with an automatic weapon.
On Monday afternoon, Brasso Seco residents Andrew Rose, 57, Lance Hill, 30, and 46-year-old Troy Marcelle Caldon were shot dead after they were ambushed by gunmen.
Their bodies were found in a burgundy Toyota Corolla at Lalaja Junction, Blanchisseuse Road, Arima.
Rose was in the driver’s seat, Hill in the front passenger seat and Caldon in the back seat, with gunshot wounds about their bodies.
Police said they found 25 spent nine-millimetre shells at the scene.
The wave of murders led Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to describe crime in the country as “ridiculous” and promise the public that the state would redouble its efforts to stop these “violent outbursts.”
In a Facebook post, he said the state will “hunt down and disarm perpetrators and make operational adjustments so that the state security services can act with despatch against the violent cohort of our national population.”
Rowley, head of the National Security Council, also convened a meeting with key ministers and leaders of the protective services.
This included Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher, acting Chief of Defence Staff Group Capt Kemba Hannays, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young and Attorney General Reginald Armour.
Hours before Rowley’s statement and the meeting, President Christine Kangaloo called out 100 TT Defence Force (TTDF) reserves to bolster the main forces to work with the police.
She cited section 238(1) of the Defence Act, Chapter 14:01 which states, “The President may call out the Volunteer Defence Force or any portion of it for actual military service with their arms and ammunition, in aid of the civil power in any case in which a riot, disturbance of the peace, or other emergency requiring such service occurs, or is, in the opinion of the President, anticipated as likely to occur, and in either case to be beyond the powers of the civil authorities to suppress, or to prevent, or deal with.”
She said the 100 members will be on active duty from October 30 to February 29 “to strengthen the TTDF capability towards the fulfilment of operational support to the TT Police Service (TTPS) in the provision of a safe and secure environment during the pre-Christmas season to the 2024 Carnival period.”
Harewood-Christopher welcomed the assistance and additional manpower from the TTDF. She told Newsday, “We will continue to establish strategic alliances with our national security agencies to enhance our intelligence and crime-fighting capabilities, and we look forward to achieving significant results as we do so.”