The police force yesterday defended its handling of the investigation into the fatal shooting of Dameon Belgrave by its ranks in 2012.
The police have come in for sharp criticism over the acquittal on Thursday in the magistrate’s court of two of its ranks for the October 5th 2012 shooting. Counsel for the two ranks argued that the fatal bullet came from the weapon of a third rank who was not charged in the unlawful killing.
This has led to Belgrave’s family and others accusing the police of deliberately bungling the case so that none of its members would be convicted.
The police however said yesterday that they acted on the instructions of the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The police said that the file in the matter had been sent by the police to the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the process of seeking legal advice.
The release said that the police “acted on legal advice obtained from the competent authority and will continue to do so in the future”.
It added that the statement of the Police Ballistics Expert was in the file prior to legal advice being given to the police on the charges to be brought against ranks.
According to the police statement yesterday, the prosecutor in the matter was part of the Early Case Assessment Programme (ECAP), and operates out of the Chambers of the DPP and not from any police location.
“The Guyana Police Force wishes to advise that it accepts criticisms in good faith and is continuously making efforts to address excesses and deficiencies of its ranks.
“However, the Police Force also wishes to bring to the notice of the public the efforts of some sections of the media to continuously use the police as a scapegoat for every negative in the justice system”, the statement said.
It added that the process forward in the Belgrave matter is for the DPP to examine the depositions and take a decision on how the police or the court should proceed with the matter.
The acquittals have bolstered longstanding public concerns that key police investigations and particularly those that involve serving members of the force are often handled unprofessionally.
Belgrave’s family has been left in deep distress as a result of the court ruling.
Policemen Sheldon Williams and Errol Williams were charged with the manslaughter after the fatal shooting outside the White Castle Fish Shop.
The two accused were freed by Magistrate Ann McLennan after the ballistics evidence given by Police Ballistic Expert Detective Sergeant Eon Jackson disclosed that a warhead discovered at the scene next to Belgrave’s body revealed that it did not come from either of their guns, but from a third officer who was not charged. Stabroek News understands that the third officer, who was identified as “Constable Fraser,” was also one of the witnesses during the preliminary inquiry into the charge.
Belgrave, 21, of Middle Street, Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara, who would have celebrated his 22nd birthday the day after he was killed, had been at the White Castle Fish Shop having a ‘pre-birthday’ drink with his friends, when a police patrol passed in pursuit of a car. Shots were then fired and Belgrave was hit. The police then took the injured man to the Georgetown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Belgrave sustained one gunshot wound under his left arm in the region of his heart.