Policeman Warren Blue and an unidentified man were last evening shot dead after they committed a daring robbery at a Montrose supermarket during which they gun butted and shot the 53-year-old proprietress.
Blue, along with two others, had been charged with the 2012 murder of Agricola youth Shaquille Grant but he mysteriously vanished before he could be placed before the court.
Blue was first to be cornered and killed by the members of a security firm while the unidentified man was killed in the store by police almost an hour later. Persons in the area say that a third bandit managed to escape in a red motor car.
Police said in a press release last evening that at about 19:00 hrs. two men armed with firearms entered the Lahago General Store at Montrose, East Coast Demerara (public road) and held up the owner Latchmie Baburam of Montrose. The perpetrators took $140,000 from Latchmie Baburam during which she was shot and wounded to her left foot.
The release said public-spirited members of the community and police ranks who responded quickly to the report confronted the perpetrators during which there was an armed confrontation and the two suspects were fatally shot. Two unlicensed .32 Taurus pistols with five rounds were recovered by the police along with a number of .32 spent shells.
It said one of the suspects was identified as Blue while the other man of East Indian descent was so far unidentified.
It added that Latchmie Baburam was admitted to the hospital as investigations continue.
However, when Stabroek News visited the community last night, a woman in the area said when she arrived on the scene, she saw a man later identified as Blue lying motionless on a small street that runs alongside the store. The woman said that the man had a gaping wound to his face and it was related to her that he had fired shots at members of a security firm who returned fire killing him.
She explained that the property is secured by a local security firm and when the bandits barged in and brandished their weapons, the internal alarm system in the business was activated. She said members of the security firm were first to arrive on the scene.
The woman, who said she has experience in the handling of weapons, said that when she arrived at the scene, traffic had slowed to a crawl and the area was filled with dozens of policemen and curious persons. She explained that the front door to the business was padlocked and everyone was standing outside.
She opined that in a bid to secure the business, a decision was taken to padlock the door. She said that from all indications at that time it was not confirmed that someone was in the building.
According to the woman, the barrier was later removed and shortly after she heard five shots followed by a single one. “I hear bam! bam! bam! bam! bam! Silence then bam!” she recalled while insisting that based on what she heard all the shots came from the same weapon. These are the shots which struck the unidentified bandit who was found hiding inside the store.
At least one other person had indicated to this newspaper that the man was heard surrendering prior to being shot. Hospital sources said he sustained four bullet wounds to the body.
The woman told Stabroek News that from the inception the ranks knew the identity of Blue as some were heard referring to him as their “squaddie”. When Blue was killed he was clad in dark coloured clothing and was wearing riding gloves. It is unclear whether this was used to ensure his fingerprints were not left at the scene or whether his mode of escape was to have been a motorcycle.
According to the woman, since the business was established it was targeted by bandits on several occasions. She said she was shocked when she heard that Baburam had been injured during the attack.
She said it was more than half an hour after she arrived that ranks entered the business place, which is still under construction, and discharged shots. Based on her accounts, when the police entered, the outer gates were locked.
The bandits were transported to the Georgetown Hospital in the tray of a police pickup. The body of the unidentified man lay sprawled on top of Blue. A sizeable crowd converged at the entrance of the emergency room to get a glimpse of the bloody corpses. No relatives turned up to identify the remains of the dead bandits and
they were later taken to the hospital’s morgue to await a post-mortem examination.
Baburam’s husband Haymat told reporters at the hospital that this was the sixth armed robbery that his business has faced since he opened the doors. He said they have two businesses, one on the public road and the other in another section of the community.
He said that in spite of the fact that he has been targeted so many times, he has no plans to close down his business. “We have been robbed so many times. We can’t give up and I don’t think we will give up,” he said. He added that in each case the robbers were young people. This, he said, ought to be addressed.
According to Haymat he was last robbed the week before Diwali and on that occasion the bandits escaped with over $300,000. He said too that on that occasion, his wife “got beat up” and is still suffering from pains in the head.
He said that this latest incident is the worst that he has experienced.
The man recalled that on one occasion, police managed to apprehend two bandits. However, after a trial at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court the magistrate sentenced them to two months’ imprisonment each. “They were on remand for a lil while and he tried the case and give them two months,” he said.
Asked what he has done to beef up security, he said that they have added more grills, noting that his business is a growing one. He said that his business has been around since 2007.
He recalled that it was one of his four daughters who called and informed him that armed bandits had entered the premises and shot his wife. At the time he was at the other business and by the time he arrived at the scene, she had already been rushed to the hospital. He said there were a lot of police around. He said he later learnt that she sustained a gunshot wound to her right thigh and a laceration to the left side of her head. The man stated that she has been unable to recount to him what exactly had transpired. He said she is in a lot of pain and was being prepped for an x-ray. He said his wife was alert and responsive and the doctors have said that she is stable.
He said too that at the time of the robbery his wife would have been in the company of two staffers and one of her daughters.
The man lauded the response of the police. “They were very quick. If it wasn’t for their help those guys would have get away again,” he said adding that while he did not know how the alarm was raised, he was told that there was a policeman outside the store who observed the robbery. He said that it was this rank who corned the bandit back into the store until help came. “Police did a great job and I am grateful to them,” he stressed.
Link to crime
Observers have expressed concerns at members of the law enforcement agencies being linked to criminal activity. Last month AWOL coastguard rank Kevin David was seriously injured when he and accomplice committed a robbery at LBI. His partner died while receiving treatment at the Georgetown Hospital, while he died ten days later.
Residents last evening pointed to the fact that both bandits were well dressed and expressed shock that one of them was a member of the Guyana Police Force. One man commented that the unidentified bandit appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties.
There had been reports that Blue and another rank Jamal Lewis had fled the country to avoid being charged with murder. Based on what this newspaper was told Blue remained in Guyana while Lewis would travel between Guyana and a neighbouring country.
With the upcoming festive season, police have urged business persons and members of the public to be on their guard as incidents of robbery are expected to become more frequent.