WRIGHTSON ROAD SHOOTOUT: Suspect shot dead after failed abduction

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Officers gather evidence near the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, after a shootout between and a kidnapping suspect on Monday morning. The suspect was killed in the incident. – AYANNA KINSALE

AN early-morning police shootout on Wrightson Road in Port of Spain ended with one man dead and hundreds of commuters, who witnessed the event, traumatised.

Within the span of ten minutes – after police intercepted the suspect driving east in a stolen silver Nissan B15 – officers chased him, returned fire and were then seen rushing him to the St James Medical Complex at the back of a police van.

Head of the Port of Spain and Western Divisions ACP William Nurse told Newsday the officers involved were left traumatised by the incident and will receive counselling.

Initial police reports said the shooting happened after the suspect allegedly robbed and attempted to kidnap a taxi driver hours earlier.

Police said around 8.30 am, the kidnap victim, 39, of Morvant was working along the Port of Spain to Carenage route when a man entered the front passenger seat of the car.

On reaching the Skallywag Bay area, Chaguaramas, the suspect pulled out a gun and announced a robbery.

He forced the victim out of the drivers’ seat, placed him in the trunk, got back into the car and continued driving.

The victim was able to call the police for help from his phone then managed to open the trunk near Small Boats, Chaguaramas and escaped.

Somehow the suspect realised the victim was attempting to escape and shot him in his right leg as he ran off.

The suspect then sped off towards the east.

Personnel from the Chaguaramas Development Authority took the victim to the St James Infirmary for medical attention where he remained in a stable condition.

Police spotted the stolen car near Waterhole, Cocorite, and officers later intercepted the vehicle around 9.30 am at the corner of French and Wrightson Road.

As the car approached French Street, the suspect shot at police.

The car crashed into a culvert at the side of the road and the suspect ran along the road near the John Donaldson campus of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), holding a gun.

Supt Roger Alexander, on TV6’s Beyond the Tape programme on Monday afternoon, confirmed the suspect fired shots at the police from inside the vehicle before trying to escape on foot.

He collapsed on the westbound lane of Wrightson Road after police returned fire and shot him.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at the St James Medical Centre at 10 am. Investigations are ongoing. Police recovered one pistol on the scene.

The deceased is yet to be identified. He was shot in the hands and a picture of the man circulating social media showed, that he had a bandage on his throat.

Speculation grew among members of the public hours later when short clips of the suspect’s final moments surfaced and circulated on social media, just after noon.

Contrary to the police’s report which says he was shot and killed by officers, videos from witnesses suggest he may have taken his own life. In one 15-second clip taken by a driver heading East, the man tripped and fell on his stomach, in the wet grass, near UTT’s entrance. He quickly turned over and moved his left hand closer to his head.

A gunshot was heard and he instantly fell to the ground again.

From the distance of where the video was taken, it looked as though he put the gun to his throat and shot himself before police could get closer.

In another clip from a surveillance camera from the school, the suspect was seen running from eastbound to the westbound lane. As he ran through traffic, bullets being fired at him hit the pavement near to UTT’s entrance.

Contacted by Newsday, ACP Nurse said he had seen the videos and preferred to wait on the autopsy report before commenting.

“That is one theory (the suspect took his own life) but only at the post-mortem examination, we will be able to confirm. Matters like those I don’t opine on them. They should be best left to the pathologist to see the tracking of the wounds were.”

The victim remains warded at St James Infirmary in serious pain, ACP Nurse added.

“Not only did the police respond in a timely fashion, they were very professional. More than one police unit responded to prevent this matter from escalating. If it got into a crowded situation in the heart of Port of Spain, it would have been chaotic. I give high praise to the action of the police but, at the same time, we are not going to pronounce on anything.”

Having taken up the post as head of two divisions, Nurse promises residents a “quality policing package which would ensure safety and security. We are working on it. Don’t be alarmed, your police are on the job.”