The family of Romario Gouveia, who was shot by police two Saturdays ago at South Road during an alleged shootout, is now seeking answers after receiving conflicting results of a post-mortem examination (PME) conducted on his body yesterday.
According to Gouveia’s father, he and other family members were told that the PME was inconclusive, while police in a press release to the media reported that government pathologist Dr Nehaul Singh, who conducted the examination, gave the cause of death as a brain haemorrhage due to blunt trauma to the head.
The cause of death as given by the police has raised questions about the care that the 19-year-old Albouystown man received at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), which his family is blaming for his death.
The younger Gouveia was pronounced dead in the Male Surgical Ward last Monday, two days after he had been shot. Nurses had told the family that he was struggling to breathe and that they tried but were unable to save him. Following his sudden death, his family voiced suspicions that he had been poisoned given that he seemed strong and in high spirits when they left him the previous day.
Gouveia had been initially admitted to the GPHC’s High Dependency Unit (HDU) before he was transferred to the Male Surgical Ward. His father yesterday said that his son should have been kept in the HDU for closer observation and that the hospital should have picked up earlier that he was bleeding in the head. “They should not have moved him,” he said, adding that his son should have remained in the HDU until his condition had been stabilised.
The hospital, however, said in a press release yesterday that no relative has come forward to complain of negligence in the care delivered. The release stated that a police bulletin indicated that Dr Singh had confirmed that Gouveia died of blunt trauma to the head but “that report does not adequately represent Dr Singh’s findings.”
According to the hospital, Dr Singh, who is a member of staff at GPHC, has also confirmed that more tests are to be conducted. “He mentioned that the bullet entered through the ear and exited at the side of the face thereby causing blunt trauma. As soon as the final results are in, a determination will be made,” the release added.
A distraught Donald Gouveia was surprised at the findings released by the police, while noting that Singh told him after the autopsy that the findings were inconclusive.
He added that when he viewed the body, he noticed that he “get knock. I saw the hit at the post mortem.” He recalled that his son had told him before he died that he had been beaten by policemen before he had been shot but he never said where he sustained the blows.
Asked if he wanted an investigation launched, Gouveia was unsure about what to do, while noting that it seemed that the police have already drawn their own conclusions about how the teen died. He said that he and his family would just have to wait and see what happens.
Gouveia was the lone survivor of the October 12 shooting on South Road, where police say that he was one of three men who exited a car near the K&VC hotel where they were headed to allegedly commit an armed robbery. Relatives of the three men have denied this claim.
According to the police, at the time they were staking out the hotel after receiving information that an occupant was the target of an impending robbery. They said they challenged the three men as they were making their way to hotel and the men opened fire, forcing them to return fire. Jermaine Canterbury, 21, of Hogg Street, Albouystown was subsequently pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Hospital, while his cousin, Mark Anthony Joseph, 19, of the same address, died shortly after arrival at the institution. They died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
Police also said that they recovered two guns and a wig at the scene.
Witnesses, however, have challenged the account given by police, saying that the men were put to lie on the roadway in front of the hotel and then shot.
One man had said that one of trio was confronted by the police on South Road opposite Demerara Bank and was made to reveal the contents of his pocket. “The man open he pocket and tek out and show it was his phone alone he had in he pocket,” the witness said. “They can’t kill people like that. That is wrong.”
Stabroek News was also told that after he was confronted, the man attempted to flee and ran west along South Road past the Tourism Ministry but was caught and taken back to the area near the bank.
The man said that at some point the suspect and the police got into a scuffle and ended up in the nearby trench. After the two came out of the trench, the police allegedly kicked the man before taking him in the vicinity of the hotel where they were all shot. “They tell them go down on the ground and turn them face and shoot them man,” one person had said.
There have also been reports that while the men were being transferred to the GPHC, ranks discharged at least two more shots at them. Gouveia had told reporters that he was the last to be shot. He said that he was farther up the road when the police approached him and ordered him back to the vicinity of the hotel. When he arrived near the hotel, Gouveia said, Canterbury and Joseph were lying face down on the road bleeding. He assumed that they were dead. It was at this point, he said, that he was told to lie down, and then was shot as well.
Yesterday Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell again called on witnesses to come forward and aid the police in their investigations. The police force’s Office of Professional Responsibility is also investigating the circumstances of the shooting.