Three suspected robbers were shot dead by police yesterday morning at the Prashad Nagar residence of a popular Bartica businessman that they were believed to be targeting.
Police said Tony Ogle, 46, called ‘Skin Teeth,’ of Albouystown and Bartica, his cousin Leon Gittens, 24, called ‘Cow,’ also of Albouystown and another man identified so far only as ‘Mac,’ were killed in a shoot-out with police moments after they arrived at the Lot 93 Premniranjan Place residence to commit a robbery.
There were conflicting accounts of the shooting, with several persons at the scene challenging the official police report. All the persons Stabroek News spoke with said that that none of the three men were armed, however, police later released photographs of two guns they say were recovered from the dead men. Crime Chief Seelall Persaud was adamant that it was a shoot-out and that the men who he described as bandits were the first to open fire.
Another man, said to be the driver of the car that transported the suspected robbers to Prashad Nagar, was arrested hours after. The man, who police officials say has a criminal record, remained in police custody up to press time last evening.
In a statement, police said ranks had staked out the Prashad Nagar home of a miner, after learning that some persons had planned to carry out a robbery on it.
The three men, two of whom were armed with firearms, entered the premises at around 10:05am, police said. “Upon being challenged by the police, the armed men opened fire on the ranks who returned fire, hitting all three of them,” the statement added.
The injured men were subsequently taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital, where one of them was pronounced dead on arrival, while the other two succumbed while receiving medical attention.
Police did not say how many times the men were shot but hospital officials told this newspaper that each of the bodies bore multiple gunshot wounds.
A .357 magnum revolver with two live rounds and a spent shell, along with a .32 Taurus pistol with nine live rounds and three rounds that had snapped were recovered at the scene, the police added.
Police investigators and curious onlookers gathered at the scene when Stabroek News arrived. By then, the three men had already been rushed to the Georgetown Hospital. There were droplets and pools of blood on the concrete surface at the front of the premises, indicating where the men had been shot.
A man, who said that he witnessed the shooting, told this newspaper that about 11am a black Toyota Raum arrived at the residence and three men exited and proceeded to walk into the yard. The Raum reportedly drove off seconds after the men exited the vehicle.
According to the man, at that moment two private cars with men later identified as plain clothes police ranks drove up. The man said that the ranks raised their weapons on the men and told them to “wait right deh.” He said that two of the men attempted to flee by running to either sides of the house but were eventually cornered and shot several times. According to the man, the third man, who had complied with the order to not move, was then told to lie down by a gate, and was then shot in his shoulder, before being shot several more times afterwards.
A friend of one of the dead men alleged that he was shot in the mouth. The man, who did not want to be identified, had turned up at the hospital to identify the body. He questioned how the man could have been shot in the mouth. Other persons who said they witnessed the events alleged that the police acted unprofessionally during and after the men had been subdued.
But when asked about the claims, the Crime Chief said that it could not have been true as the miner corroborated the statements by the ranks at the scene. He strongly denied the claim, while noting that the only eyewitness to the shooting was the miner, who had already given a statement to investigators. He said that other persons arrived at the scene after the shooting. “No, the police did not stand over anyone and fire,” Persaud emphasised.
Persaud went on to say that based on the information, two of the men were seen walking in with their guns drawn and they were the first to fire at the police, who immediately returned fire.
A police official at the scene said that the police officers who first responded to the robbery received direct information from inside the house that a robbery was in progress. He said that it appears as though the ranks were conveniently in the vicinity of the residence, allowing them to respond as promptly as they did.
However, one of the persons claiming to be a witness said that the cars which responded to the robbery were seen parked a short distance from the residence some time before the vehicle transporting the dead men arrived. He also said that the same cars were seen circling the area earlier in the day. This supported the police statement’s claim that ranks had staked out the residence after learning of the planned robbery.
When this newspaper was at the scene, the homeowner remained inside his house. Despite numerous efforts Stabroek News was unable to speak with him. Later, the premises appeared to be locked and no one was in sight.
‘Ignored meh warning’
Ogle, police said, was currently before the court on two charges of armed robbery, discharging a loaded firearm and possession of a firearm without licence, while Gittens was before the court on a charge of break and enter and larceny.
Gittens was a father of six. Otisha Michaels, the mother of his children, told Stabroek that she had warned him to stay home yesterday morning but he ignored her. “This morning I hear somebody hollering is Cow, and I hear me sister-in-law tell me somebody hollering fuh Cow,” the 24-year-old woman said, adding that when they went outside she recognised the man calling for Gittens as an individual who is frequently engaged in shady activities.
She said that when she saw the man talking to Gittens, she approached the men and made inquiries about what they were discussing.
Ogle, according to her, was already sitting in the vehicle. Both men refused to say anything, and Michaels said she warned Gittens about going anywhere with the men.
“Ah seh don’t leff this place fuh go nowhere with (the vehicle’s driver). I did mekkin me daughter porridge, so I go inside back and I keep on making me daughter porridge. I come outside and when I come outside back me ain’t see he (the vehicle’s driver). He did come with a black Raum. It did park over the road. Me ain’t see he nor me ain’t see the Raum. Then I get a call like an hour or so sayin he just get shoot up,” she said.
Michaels added that when they turned up at the mortuary to verify if it was indeed Gittens who had been shot, they were prevented from doing so.
Stabroek News was unable to make contact with Ogle’s relatives. His mother, who lives in Bartica, was said to be on her way to the city after receiving word of the shooting.
No relatives of the unidentified man had come forward although persons familiar with him said that he was a frequent visitor to the Albouystown area.