Shot 15-year-old Alex Griffith yesterday recounted how a cadet officer played Russian roulette while grilling him about the identities of suspects in a robbery, eventually shooting him in his mouth.
Griffith, though in intense pain, recounted the harrowing experience to this newspaper from his bed at the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH).
The boy explained that he had been at a friend’s home around 8 pm last Wednesday evening when a robbery occurred outside. Though he had been unable to see what had transpired, he said, two van-loads of policemen later went to his East La Penitence Squatting area home to question him about the identities of the robbers.
He had relayed to the ranks that he was unaware of the robbers’ identities. He was nevertheless taken from his home, placed in one of the vehicles, and driven around the area. He told this publication that the vehicle eventually stopped in front of the home of one of the suspected robbers in the East La Penitence area. However, the person was not at home.
Griffith continued that the accused robber’s absence apparently infuriated the cadet officer, who forced him from the police vehicle and ordered him to lie on the ground. The cadet officer, Griffith said, removed all of the bullets from a gun but subsequently replaced one. He then put the gun into the 15-year-old’s mouth.
The cadet officer, he said, continued to press him for the robbers’ identities. After not receiving a satisfactory answer, the cadet officer pulled the trigger but nothing happened. Once again, he asked for the identities of the bandits and, when told by Griffith once again that he did not know, he fired a second time. This time, Griffith said, the gun went off.
He said he began to bleed badly from the mouth and one of the accompanying ranks said, “this guy bleeding bad; leh we tek him to the hospital.” He was dropped off at the hospital by the ranks who left shortly afterwards.
He explained he was conscious right until his arrival and subsequent admission into the hospital.
Meanwhile, Marcel Griffith told Stabroek News yesterday that her son was recovering, though he was still experiencing some pain.
Asked if she believed that her son will get justice, Marcel said, “at least so far I think justice is on its way.” She said that today is the day for the police to make a final decision on charges to be instituted against the cadet officer because the 72 hours would have expired.
Contacted yesterday, Crime Chief Leslie James told this newspaper that no statement had been taken from the child as he is still hospitalized. He added that the child had been shot in the mouth and that area was still very tender. However, the boy’s mother told this newspaper differently.
Marcel explained that a Criminal Investigations Department (CID) rank visited last Friday and collected a detailed statement from her son, which the boy signed. She said that the rank insisted that he needed to take the statement then, even though the child could not speak properly, because the commissioner had requested it. She added that the rank returned the next morning and notified her that she needed to sign the statement as well, which she did.
The woman told this newspaper that while the boy was being interviewed, a lawyer that the family has retained, was present.
Responding to queries by this publication on whether the cadet officer was released from custody, James said the accused cadet officer remains under close arrest at Eve Leary.
According to James, the law permits a person, including a policeman, to be held for 72 hours. “We do have him in custody,” James said while stressing, “He is still under close arrest.”
James also revealed that investigators are still collecting statements, noting that the investigation “can be looked at from several fronts.” Further, he said, the investigators will have to look at the whether the cadet officer’s intention had been to scare the child or to physically harm him.
James stressed that the boy is still hospitalized and that investigators did not want to act hastily in administering a charge. “We are looking at it,” he assured this publication, noting that the force was well aware of the expectations of the citizenry.
When questioned about whether the charge could be one relating to wounding or attempted murder, he said that in matters like these it can go either way. However, he pointed out, the intention must first be established.
In response to a question on whether there will be departmental charges brought against the officer, he said that in a case like this the police also have to deal with the public outcry and whether it would suffice to only administer departmental charges.
According to the Crime Chief, the criminal aspect of the case is being looked at.
Meanwhile, a security source said the case is one of “open and shut” attempted murder. “What would be your intent to put a gun in a man’s mouth?” the source questioned before adding that it was a miracle that the teen was not dead. The bullet, the source noted, could have severed a blood vessel or pierced his brain.
“This is a clear case of attempted murder and all of them should do down with him,” the source said in reference to the approximately one dozen ranks who accompanied the cadet officer.
The source said there should be no delay in not only bringing criminal charges against the cadet officer and his accomplices but also “stripping them of their positions in the Guyana Police Force”.
Based on reports, the robbery occurred around 8 pm and, a few hours later, the cadet officer and the accompanying ranks arrived at the Griffith’s home. This newspaper was reliably informed that it was a sister of the ‘C’ Division-based cadet officer who was robbed.
It would appear that, after hearing of the robbery, the cadet officer left his post, rounded up some ranks, and headed to the East La Penitence Squatting Area to investigate. At the scene, he was well-dressed in his police uniform.