Two men were fatally shot by police on Saturday night after ranks from the Guyana Police Force “challenged” them as they were allegedly in the process of executing a robbery.
The men have been identified as Paul Basscom, 26, of 534 Block X Diamond, East Coast Demerara and Alberto Grant, 27, of Meadowbrook.
A press release from the police said that “acting on information received that a robbery had been planned to be carried out on a gold miner, the police staked out an area at Golden Grove, EBD during last night, Saturday December 07, 2013.” The gold miner referred to by the police resides at 756 Section C Block Y Diamond Housing Scheme, ECD. This residence was the target of the alleged robbery attempt.
The release further stated that “at about 22:30hrs, the police challenged two men who were approaching on foot and one of the them pulled out a handgun and opened fire on the ranks. The police returned fire and fatally wounded both men. A .38 snub-nose revolver with live rounds and two spent shells, along with one 9mm round and two 7.62 x 39 rounds were recovered by the police.”
This is the fourth case of its kind this year where the police have ambushed suspects with fatal consequnces. In the three cases prior to yesterday’s, the police’s account and the need for use of deadly force have been challenged.
Up to yesterday mornning when the release was received the police had only identified Bascom, but relatives of both men subsequently went to the Lyken Funeral Parlour where the bodies are being kept and positively identified both men.
“Andy the man aint got a face no more,” exclaimed one of Grant’s friends, while another, in tears, asked “wuh (Grant) do dem man suh fuh dem man do (Grant) duh bai.” Yet another man, after identifying the body yelled, “wow, duh man got a big hole in he face bai.”
They had just accompanied his wife to identify his body. The man’s wife, who said that she preferred that her name remain unknown, shared that she saw Grant on Saturday night at her home before he left to go to see one of his friends. The two were married but did not live together.
One of Grant’s friends said that he also saw the man on Saturday night. “I tell de man how he getting fat, and he tell me that is because he been staying inside.
“Duh man is like me brother, we does even look the same. We hair plait the same, we does go to the same mosque, people does mistake me fuh he and he fuh me. I even had to tell he the other other day fuh deh pon he ites before he do something stupid and people come looking fuh me thinkin I is he.”
The friends and family of Bascom were equally shocked by the damage done to his face as a result of the gunshot(s) he received. “Look wuh they do the man bai,” cried one friend who told Stabroek News that he had seen both men aroud 22:00 the night of the incident in a heavily tinted silver Toyota 212.
Melissa Griffith, Bascom’s girlfriend, explained that she last saw him on Saturday night at their home in Albertown . The woman said that she had left him home to go and borrow two movies so the two could watch. When she returned home though, she said that she was told that Bascom had left, saying that he would return soon. Griffith said she thought nothing of it and went to a game of bingo that was being played in the National Park. She said she made attempts to call Bascom to let him know where she was but that he never answered his phone.
When Bascom failed to return home by yesterday morning the woman said she called his mother in Diamond to ask her if he had slept over at her house, since he lived between residences. Griffith would later learn that an online news site had reported that her boyfriend was dead, and she shared the news with his mother.
From the descriptions given by the relatives of both men, Bascom and Grant each sustained at least one gunshot to their faces leaving them both partially disfigured.
These injuries, said Anita Sebrene, Bascom’s mother, who broke out in screams at the sight of her son’s disfigured face, are inconsistent with the the police’s claim of a gunfight. The police said that as they “challenged” the men one of them, using a hand gun, opened fire on the police prompting the ranks to return fire, killng both men.
But considering the injuries suffered, unless this alleged exchange of gunfire occurred at a relatively close range, it is difficult to rationalise how the men could have suffered such disfigurement.
The police in their statement suggested that the men were “challenged,” and that the gunfire exchange ensued as they were “approaching on foot.”
Information from residents living near the house suggest that the police may have waited until the men entered the miner’s yard before challenging them. One resident said that he received a tip from a fellow resident before 21:00 hrs saying that something was going to happen later in the night, and that he and his family should stay in their house locked up.
The man said that he did not know what to make of the warning, but heeded it nevertheless. He continued that later he was awoken from his sleep by rapid gunshots which were so powerful that they shook his glass louvres. Upon hearing the shots the man said he peeked outside, and noticed police vehicles blocking one of the streets leading to the house.
In a bid to find out what was going on he said he called the Golden Grove Police Station, but was told by a female rank that police were conducting an exercise in the area. The man said he found it strange that police ranks would be carrying out such an exercise in a residential area at that time of the night.
After a few more shots went off, he said, he called the station again and asked “what was really going on.” It was at this point that he was told that police were carrying out an operation in the area, and that he should stay inside, which he did. The man said he learnt the next morning that police had staked out the house after being tipped of that a robbery would take place. Ranks are said to have hidden in a nearby unfinished building, and on one of the trucks which sits right outside the house which was the target of the alleged robbers.
He said he learnt that the police waited until the men went into the yard before they sprung the ambush. A gunfight reportedly ensued and both men were shot dead; one on the back step of the hosue, and the other near the gate.
Stabroek News was informed that Bascom and Grant arrived at the house via a car which was parked some distance from the house. But as gunshots began to ring out, the car sped away. It is unknown how many men, aside from the driver, were in the car when it fled.
Another resident said he heard gunshots and got up to see what has going on. He said that when he came out of his house he saw nothing at first, and thought that maybe someone was lighting squibs ahead of the Christmas holiday. This conclusion was premature as the man said that he then saw smoke rising from the yard of the residence, after which he saw several police ranks holding different kinds of weapons.
Before the bodies of the men were removed from the yard in which they were killed approximately thirty uniformed and plain-clothes ranks, armed with weapons of varying calibres, had converged on the scene, the man said.
Another resident said that he was not at home when the shooting occurred, but came home to find the scene.
Stabroek News learned that the occupants of the house, having found out of the plot to rob them, left the house hours before Bascom and Grant got there. By late last evening though, some of them had returned. When approached, the family indicated that they were not yet ready to speak to the media.
This is the fourth instance for the year that a police stakeout ended in the deaths of men who police say were planning a robbery. On October 12th, three youths – Mark Anthony Joseph, 19, Jermaine Canterbury, 21, and Romario Gouveia, 19, – were fatally shot by police in the vicinity of the K&VC Hotel.
According to a release, police ranks on a stakeout challenged the men as they were approaching the hotel with the intention of robbing it, when the men opened fire on the police. Canterbury and Joseph were killed on the scene while Gouveia was taken to the Georgetown Hospital where he died a few days later. Gouveia’s death was deemed controversial as the lad was said to have been in a stable condition, and recovering.
Although eyewitnesses say the boys never traded fire with the police, the police in a release said they recovered a “.32 revolver with two live rounds and one spent shell, and an unlicensed .38 snub-nose revolver with three live rounds and three spent shells.” All three youths hailed from Albouystown.
On September 16, a suspected bandit was shot dead and two others captured after a shootout with police at Kastev Housing Scheme, Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Coast Demerara, which was being staked out by the lawmen after a tip off about a planned robbery.
The dead man was identified as Kirk Bacchus of Paradise, East Coast Demerara.
Also, on February 6th, three men – Tony Ogle, 39, of Callender Street, Albouystown, Leon Gittens, 24, of Hill Street, Albouystown, and Quincy Alexander, 33, of Meadow Brook Gardens – were shot dead by plain clothes police men who staked out a Prashad Nagar residence which the men allegedly had intention of robbing.
The police had said that they attained intelligence that a robbery would be carried out and that they took measures to prevent it. An eyewitness had said three men had exited a black Toyota Raum which had pulled up to the building. As the men were entering the yard, two private cars with men later identified as plain-clothes ranks drove up. The three men were apparently ordered to stop and two were cornered and shot as they fled behind the house.
The third man was later reportedly ordered to lie on the ground and was shot. Residents had said that the men were unarmed, although the police said that they recovered a .357 magnum, a .32 Taurus pistol and several live rounds from the men.