As cops, gunmen shoot it out…Mom felled by stray bullet

(Trinidad Guardian) One minute beautiful Bianca Charles was standing in the company of her boyfriend Nigel Christmas. The next, Charles felt a stinging sensation in her left side. She realised she was shot. Charles, who was an innocent bystander, was killed on Wednesday night during a shoot-out between police and gunmen at the Industrial Estate, Morvant. Charles, 36, a mother of one, of Sixth Avenue, Barataria, was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Police said Charles was standing at the side of road between 10 pm and midnight when there was a shoot-out. Police had responded to a report and Charles was hit by a stray bullet in the fracas.

Officers assigned to Morvant Police Station quickly responded to the shooting, but left the scene. Police said officers who were involved in the shoot-out were assigned to unit in the Port-of-Spain Division. Morvant police said the officers were already at the scene and were not co-operative. A ballistics test will ascertain whether Charles was killed by a stray bullet from the police or the gunmen, investigators said. An autopsy yesterday revealed Charles died of a ruptured liver and kidney.

In a brief interview at the family’s home in Malick, Charles’ sister, Alana Phillips, said she had been visiting her boyfriend. Christmas owned a restaurant and bar on that street. Phillips said: “She was visiting him. She (Charles) did not even know when she got shot. Her boyfriend told people to come inside the bar when he saw what was going on. After she came inside, she realised she was shot.”

An emotional Phillips said the police were chasing the gunmen and she did not know who killed her. “We don’t know if it was the gunmen or not,” she said. Phillips said she knew minutes before Charles passed away. “I had sharp pains in my belly moments before…When I got the call I said she was gone,” Phillips said. Phillips said Charles’ only aim in life was to “be a good mother which she was and gave her daughter, Sapphire Christmas, what she didn’t have.” She described her as “bubbly, jolly and always with a joke.”

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