A minibus ride for a Patentia man and his four children turned into a nightmare on Sunday, as they found themselves caught on the wrong end of a high-speed police chase.
Akila Nials, 9, of Patentia, West Bank Demerara (WBD) was in high spirits on Monday but became restless and fretful from the pain in her right foot, where she was shot. Mark Nials explained that his daughter was wounded by a bullet discharged by police at Nismes Old Road.
For more than 15 minutes, he said, a police patrol had been chasing the minibus through a string of WBD villages. At the end of the high speed chase, at Nismes, he discovered that his daughter had been wounded and found a gun in his face.
On Monday, police said that Akila was “accidentally shot and injured by the police during the pursuit of a mini-bus in which she was a passenger.” Acting on information that minibus BLL 6759 was transporting narcotics, police said, efforts were made to stop the vehicle at Wales, WDB, but the driver drove away. He also drove through a police roadblock that had been established at Nismes, WBD, following which the police gave chase behind the vehicle.
In further efforts to evade the police, the driver drove the minibus through Parfait Harmonie and Canal Number One Polder during which the police discharged a round in an attempt to puncture the wheel of the minibus. However, the bullet struck Akila. The vehicle was subsequently stopped at Nismes and a search uncovered 2.5 kilogrammes of dried marijuana. The driver has been arrested and is in police custody. Charges will be laid shortly. Mark and his wife, Natasha Nials, have since met with ‘D’ Division Commander Assistant Commissioner Balram Persaud. The man said that so far police have been very cooperative and have assured that they are investigating the incident.
A team from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has been assigned to the investigation, Mark said. The team visited their Patentia home on Monday and has been providing them with as much support as is possible.
The bus ride
Mark and his four children, ages 6, 7, 9 and 11, left their Patentia home at about 11.45am on Sunday. It was there that they joined the route 31 minibus that would take them on an unforgettable ride. When the bus approached the Wales Police Station, Mark recalled, a policeman tried to stop the minibus but the driver just kept moving. Immediately, the man said, he voiced his objections to the driver and asked him to stop the vehicle so he and his children could get out. “It was me and my four children alone in this bus with this man and he had no conductor,” Mark said.
As they neared the Le Retraite area, the man recalled, a police patrol in the oncoming lane tried to stop the driver again but he refused to stop. The patrol then turned around and started to follow the minibus.
During this time, Mark said he again started screaming to the driver to stop the vehicle and was told that they would be put off at the church. The driver slowed down as he approached the church but realized that the police patrol was getting closer. It was then that he really began speeding, Mark said.
The minibus then turned into the Canal Number One access road, sped into Parfait Harmonie, then through the Westminster scheme and headed back out of the access road and towards Nismes again. It was while at Parfait Harmonie, Mark recalled, he heard two gunshots, one of which hit his child. However, he has since been advised by police that these were warning shots discharged by police.
As the driver sped, Mark related, he pulled out the metal bar separating the passengers section from the driver and tried to stop the man. Throughout the ordeal, his children were screaming.
It was not until they reached Nismes Old Road, Mark said, that he managed to choke the driver and put the bus in neutral. The vehicle eventually came to a stop and Mark held the driver in place until police made their way over.
“It was the most horrible thing to have ever happen to me in my life. All through that bus ride I had to listen to my children screaming and I overcome with fear for their safety,” the man said.
Mark further said that during the chase he tried indicating to police to not shoot by putting his hand through the bus window. “I was afraid to put out my head just in case they thought I was a bad guy and was going to shoot at them,” he said.
Police, the man insisted, would have seen him and his children in the bus before they started to chase the minibus. Mark said that police could have handled the situation differently.
“They know we were in there. They saw us in that bus and you know I don’t think that they cared that we were in that bus when they shot at it,” Mark stated.
The bullet which wounded his child, Mark explained, hit and entered the bus, ripped through the Bible which was near his leg and entered Akila’s foot. The child was taken to the West Demerara Regional Hospital and then referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital for further treatment. The bullet was removed from Akila’s foot and the child was released from the hospital on Sunday night. “I just thank the lord that we are alive and that nothing happened to any of us…we could have been killed,” Mark said.