Questions linger over shooter in cop’s death

-despite ballistic test results

Family members of slain Police Corporal Seburn Elias, who was fatally shot while trying to recapture an escaped prisoner, are questioning the circumstances under which he died and say they have very little confidence about getting answers to the lingering questions.

A post-mortem examination conducted yesterday at the Georgetown Public Hospital Mortuary by government pathologist Nehaul Singh confirmed that Elias was shot twice–once in the chest just below the left breast and in the left side of his abdomen.

Police, in a press release, said that the cause of death was given as “haemorrhage and shock due to gunshot injuries,” although the death certificate given to his family states that the rank died as a result of gunshot injuries to the abdomen.

Corporal Seburn Elias
Corporal Seburn Elias

The release added that a warhead was removed from the body by Singh and subsequent tests done by the Police Ballistics Section have confirmed that it was a .38 round. At the time that the escaped prisoner Delon Abrams was cornered, he was armed with a .38 revolver which he had earlier snatched from a police rank who was guarding him at the Georgetown Hospital.

Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had previously explained that the ranks were pursuing two lines of inquiry—that Elias was shot by “friendly fire,” meaning rounds discharged by a policeman; or by two rounds which were discharged from the weapon that was stolen by Abrams.

It was expected that ballistic testing on the bullet/s recovered from body would have been able to provide clarity on who was responsible for the shooting.

In its release yesterday, the police force did not say anything more about the warhead other than to confirm that it was a .38 round. It is unclear whether checks are being conducted to ascertain whether any of the ranks who were around Elias at the time he was shot were armed with a .38-calibre weapon or if additional ballistics testing will be done to determine whether the recovered warhead came from the gun that the prisoner had snatched.

This newspaper spoke to Crime Chief  Persaud prior to the release of yesterday’s police press statement. While stating that a warhead had been recovered from the body, he was unable to say if the rank from whom the gun was stolen had been placed under close arrest. He said that he knew that the sergeant who released the weapon to him had been placed under close arrest.

It was Persaud who first mentioned that Elias may have been shot during “friendly fire”. He had spoken to this newspaper moments after the shooting occurred. However police in their press release later that night gave a different version.

Meanwhile, sources close to Elias’ family told Stabroek News yesterday that there seem to be more questions than answers about the shooting, which are fuelling suspicion.

Stabroek News was reliably informed that the bullet to the chest smashed  Elias’s heart before exiting his upper back. The second bullet was found lodged in Elias lower back, close to his spine. It had entered through the left side of the abdomen.

One source questioned why Elias, who had 25 years of experience under his belt, would try to tackle an armed man when he had no weapon of his own. “That just ain’t meh no sense to me. All of this thing strange, strange,” said the source, who suggested that the shooter had to have known about weapons.

The source said that based on where Elias was hit, it appears as through the shooter knew what he was doing. “I don’t believe that is that man (the prisoner) who shoot Seburn,” the source said, before adding that while persons close to Elias have many questions they know that many of them would remain unanswered.

The source said that the injuries that Elias sustained told a different story than him being involved in a scuffle with the prisoner. The source, while calling on the police to investigate the matter thoroughly, questioned whether the police had checked for gunpowder residue on the hands of all the ranks that were there. The source also questioned why more than two spent shells were not recovered if residents heard as many as six gunshots. The source said that knowing the type of person that Elias was, he would have exercised a lot of caution given the fact that the area where the man was hiding was dark. Residents said that the man was cornered in the yard where an uninhabited house is located. He had jumped the back fence via Third Street to gain entry while ranks used the Fourth Street entrance.

This newspaper has also been informed that in the days before he was killed, Elias had been transferred from the Brickdam Police Station to the Alberttown Police Station reportedly because he had refused to take part in an operation at the Georgetown Prisons.

According to the police, Abrams, 23, of South Ruimveldt, Georgetown, had been arrested by public-spirited persons and handed over to the police following an alleged break and enter and larceny committed on a home at Turkeyen. He had suffered injuries prior to being handed over to the police and was being escorted to the Georgetown Hospital by a constable, who was armed with his .38-calibre service revolver. It was in the hospital compound that Abrams managed to overpower the policeman and take away his firearm before escaping, the police said.

Abrams was pursued by police ranks, who caught up with him in a yard at Fourth Street, Alberttown, around 7pm.

Stabroek News had been reliably informed that Abrams got his chance to escape by pretending that he wanted to use the washroom in the waiting area of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Unit. It was when his handcuffs were removed that he scuffled with the rank guarding him. He then snatched the rank’s service revolver and made a dash for the door with the gun in hand and the police rank hot in pursuit.

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