Police probing vigilante beating at Canal Number One

‘D’ Division Commander Leslie James yesterday said that the police have launched an investigation into reports by two men that they were beaten by residents of Canal Number One, who accused them of stealing rearview mirrors and that a “determination would be made soon.”

“We are looking at the matter, we have statements and I met with the two men along with a member of ‘D’ Division Office of Professional Responsibility and my second in command and we are investigating,” James said when contacted by this newspaper.

Dameion Gordon and Vernon Beckles have reported that they were beaten by residents on Sunday evening when they visited the West Bank Demerara community along with friends to have some drinks. The men were taken there by a member of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) who they said invited them to an upcoming event and wanted to show them where he lived.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday a very emotional Gordon said they were following the GDF rank, his wife, her sister and her sister’s husband into the shop when Beckles was first attacked by the alleged theft victim.

“He just went and start beating Beckles and others joined and after they started beating him I ran and they start on me too. I was hit twice in the head with bottles and then I end up in the trench and them still beating me,” Gordon told this newspaper yesterday.

Attempts by this newspaper to speak to Beckles yesterday proved futile as it was reported that he had returned to the hospital for follow-up treatment.

Gordon said at one point he ended up in a heap of sand and it was at this point that he was handcuffed by a Rural Constable (RC).

“To tell you the truth by that time I didn’t know wah was happening and is one a dem man who tell me that they continue beating me even with the handcuff…,” the young man said.

He said when the police arrived, even though they were taken for medical treatment they were forced to remain in the lock-ups on Sunday night as if they were common criminals.

Gordon confirmed that they met with the Commander and the other officers on Tuesday night along with the man whose rearview mirrors were allegedly stolen and the RC. The alleged theft victim was one of the men who was involved in the beating.

At the meeting, he said, the man maintained that he had seen Beckles remove his mirror but Gordon said this never happened and that the men later said that the mirrors were found on the ground. The mirrors are now in police custody. The men gave statements to the police.

“We just come out of the car and was going into the shop, we walking behind we friends…,” Gordon reiterated.

He said at the meeting James told them that the matter would be investigated and they should allow the law to take its course.

Meantime, Gordon said that he was left “dumbfounded” by the reported statement given to the police by the GDF officer, who claimed that he had not known them before Sunday night.

The rank reportedly told the police in a written statement that while he had driven the car with the men to the area they were not his friends, but rather they were friends with his sister-in-law’s husband.

“But that is not true we know him from before and that really baffle me. Is he who invite we to the area and this is not the first time. Last year when it was Diwali or Eid he invited we saying he had a session and Beckles turn and say he don’t go place he don’t know. And now again he say he off on the weekend of the 17th and how he got a barbecue,” Gordon said.

While admitting that they were friendlier with the man’s sister-in-law’s husband he said it was not the first time they met the rank. He said he knew the two sisters before they were married and had visited them while they lived in Thomas Street with his friend, who married one of them. Gordon said he had introduced Beckles to the men and the sisters and last year was the first time Beckles met the GDF rank.

“He carry we over on Sunday and carry we to his home and show we where he will get the session and where he will put the barbecue grill and then is going they going to buy beers and then this thing happen,” he stated. “That was shocking…when he say that he don’t know me.”

Gordon yesterday called for justice and said he would not allow the matter the rest until he receives same.

“Seriously I want full justice, because it is my face, my character is gone. Father knows I want something from this, I can’t just let this come down and let it go. I want my name to be cleared. The father knows…,” the man said in tears.

He pointed out that he will soon be 30 and has never had any brushes with the law and it was hard now to be accused of being a thief only because of his race. “Give me any other charge not a thief. I can’t take that. I am no thief,” he maintained.

The man, who is studying business management online said that the incident has changed his outlook on life in Guyana.

“This has changed my ideology…,” he said haltingly adding that he has resigned from the job he had for seven months where he worked as an accountant/sales representative.

“They didn’t ask me to resign…But I just had to because right now I don’t want to be around certain people, that is all I would say,” Gordon stressed.

“You know all my friends I go to school with is East Indians and most of them is still my friends but this here, this here, the father knows…”

The beating of the two men was punctuated with racial slurs.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Social Cohesion said it had taken note of the “horrendous act of violence“ on the two men as reported by the media.

“The Ministry takes note of the seriousness of those reports and urges that a thorough investigation be conducted into the incident.  Additionally, the Ministry reiterates the position stated by President David Granger that while citizens have a right to protect themselves and property, this must take the form of Commu-nity Policing Groups. Vigilan-tism, especially when it results in the injury or death, will not be tolerated.  All citizens are called on to respect the rule of law.

“Even as the Ministry awaits the report following the conclusion of police investigations, it is important that all Guyanese remain committed to co-existing in an environment of unity and peace as we strive to deepen social cohesion. The Ministry of Social Cohesion calls for calm even as the Guyana Police Force investigates the circumstances surrounding the incident with a view to ensuring that justice is served”, a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency said.

Police statement

Last night, the police issued the following statement on the matter.

Police are investigating the alleged assault committed on Dameion Gordon and his friend Vernon Beckles which occurred about 21:00h. last Sunday at Two Brothers, Canal No. 1 Polder, WBD, by a group of allegedly irate residents, after one of them was allegedly seen removing a pair of mirror from a parked motor car.

Investigations have so far revealed that the victims were taken from Georgetown to the home of Ewart Lewis, a member of the Guyana Defence Force, who lives at Two Brothers, Canal No. 1 Polder, WBD, by an in-law of Lewis’ reputed wife.

Later, whilst at Ewart’s place, the Ewart family and the victims (Gordon and Beckles) decided to venture to Georgetown to seek further entertainment and while doing so, stopped at a shop at Two Brothers, where Ewart, his reputed wife and her in-law went into the shop leaving the two victims on the Public Road.

Ewart Lewis claimed that while at the shop in Canal, a resident (name given) ran into the shop and shouted saying that two men were stealing the mirrors from his motor car and shortly after another resident (name given) told him that the men who stole the mirrors were the men he brought in his car. Immediately, several persons in the vicinity swarmed the two men and began questioning them and during this period (Gordon) fled and jumped into the canal and both of them denied stealing the mirrors.

The rearview mirrors belonging to the vehicle where the two victims were seen standing, were later found by Ewart Lewis, under another vehicle which was parked in close proximity of the vehicle of which they were stolen from.

Whilst in the trench, the alleged irate residents threw bricks and other objects at Gordon, while the other was detained by residents.

A Rural Constable from the area took initial action and pleaded with Gordon to come out but he refused; by this time the police patrol arrived and Gordon came out of the canal.

They were taken into custody and subsequently escorted to the West Demerara Regional Hospi-tal where they were treated and sent away.

The Divisional Commander Assistant Commissioner Leslie James and a team of Officers have since visited the location and obtained statements.

The Guyana Police Force wishes to caution media houses which rush to publicize episodes given to them but which later turned out to be exceedingly erroneous. The Force also wishes note that connotations of vigilantism were published in certain sections of the media but which are unsubstantiated based on statements obtained from members of the public, some of whom were involved in this incident on the day in question.

It is not the first time that persons who are suspected of having committed an offence invoke the wrath of members of the public and while we frown and warn against these behaviors as being unacceptable, the reality is that one cannot necessarily immediately determine what a spontaneous action will be.

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