The family of Alex Griffith, the teen shot in the mouth last week by a policeman, yesterday joined with rights groups and activists to protest the delay in charging the lawman.
The demonstration was staged outside of Police Headquarters, Eve Leary, and saw activist Mark Benschop along with the teen and his mother, Marcel Griffith, seeking a meeting with the Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud. However, the Commissioner’s Personal Assistant informed that they have to go through a process.
“So I told him that it is only fair to come out and at least listen to her and offer some sort of word that may eventually comfort her (Marcel Griffith, the teen’s mother) with regards to the investigations,” said Benschop.
Crime Chief Leslie James told Stabroek News yesterday that investigators are finalising their report on the shooting. He acknowledged that “many have expressed concerns about the amount of time that the police are taking to investigate the shooting” but stressed that conducting a thorough investigation is the main aim of the force and a lot of work has to be done. He said that it makes no sense to rush and charge someone and when it goes before the courts there are errors.
Griffith was shot after being detained by a group of police officers in the East La Penitence Squatting Area last week Wednesday night for questioning about a robbery. He was beaten by the police and has identified a cadet officer, whose relative was the victim of the robbery, as the person who eventually shot him while playing Russian Roulette with him.
When asked about the ranks who were with the cadet officer when the child was shot, James said that “all of that is part of the investigation.” Those ranks were not put under close arrest as was done with the cadet officer as they were not the ones accused of pulling the trigger, he explained.
The matter is presently in the hands of the Office of Professional Responsibly (OPR). Based on what this newspaper was told, once the OPR has completed its investigations, the file with recommendations will be sent to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and then to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Stabroek News was reliably informed that the file will be sent to the PCA sometime early next week.
In a statement released yesterday, police said the mother of the shot boy, Marcel Griffith, was briefed by Head of the OPR, Heeralall Mackhanlall, as to the status of the investigation and the way forward in relation to the incident where her son was shot in his mouth by a policeman.
“She was informed that the investigation is in the final stage and will be completed shortly, following which the file will be sent to the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority for his perusal and recommendations and then to the Director of Public Prosecutions for legal advice, upon which the Police Force will act,” the brief statement said.
But Benschop said after attempts to speak with Persaud were futile, he decided not to go to the OPR because Griffith would just get a recap of what has already happened, which is not needed because the family wants swift justice.
“The file should have been sent already to the Director of Public Prosecutions and charges should have already been laid against the cadet officer. She wants to speak with the Commissioner of Police because he is the head of the Guyana Police Force and he needs to say what is taking the investigation so long to conclude,” Benschop said, while adding that the family is of the view that there is some sort of attempt at a cover up, hence the delay.
Benschop further made it clear that there will be no acceptance of any sort of compensation out of court. He explained that that the family wanted the cadet officer to be charged and placed before the court and the family’s lawyer Dexter Todd will decide on the course of action with regards to a civil action lawsuit against the police force and possibly against the officer in question.
“Money can’t buy my child. No amount of money is worth my child. Justice is what I am looking for. He needs to be put away a little to let him realise that he did something wrong, that you cannot just look at people children and shoot them,” Marcel Griffith exclaimed, while saying she hoped speaking with Persaud would give her some sort of satisfaction.
She added that she is just receiving promises and nothing fruitful is coming out of the situation even though her son already identified the shooter and gave his statement to the police.
One of the protestors, Bevon Currie, said when persons acting on behalf of the state would assault and brutalise youngsters, it would be difficult to mould a generation who are respectful to the police.
“I am here to say to the Commissioner to stop the antics and start taking action now. This is a clear case of the police using excessive force on an unarmed young man in a routine form of investigation,” Currie said. Members of the Red Thread group also participated in the protest.
Meanwhile, Benschop also said that he was dissatisfied with the silence from the parliamentary opposition parties on the case. He added that he informed the leader leaders of both APNU and the AFC but neither showed up at the protest.
The teen had told Stabroek News that he had been at a friend’s home around 8 pm last Wednesday evening when a robbery occurred outside. 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 although he did not see what transpired.
He said although he told the police that he did not know the identities of the robbers, he was nevertheless taken from his home, placed in one of the vehicles, and driven around the area. He said 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.
The teen said the accused robber’s absence apparently infuriated the cadet officer and he forced him from the police vehicle and ordered him to lie on the ground. The cadet officer, the boy said, removed all of the bullets from a gun but subsequently replaced one. He then put the gun into the boy’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, the boy said, the gun went off.
He was dropped off at the hospital by the ranks who left shortly afterwards.