The family of an Agricola, East Bank Demerara woman, who was accidentally wounded during a shootout between members of the Guyana Police Force and alleged bandits, is seeking compensation to foot her medical bills.
It is, however, unclear if the shot that struck Parmadai (only name), of 124 Caesar Street, Agricola, was fired by police or the alleged bandits, although residents of the area say it was the lawmen who were wildly firing during the encounter on Tuesday afternoon.
Parmadai was in her hammock when she was struck in her buttocks by a stray bullet.
Commander of ‘A’ Division Marlon Chapman told Stabroek News that the Office of Professional Responsibility is currently investigating to determine where the shot was fired from.
The police, in a statement late Tuesday night, said that acting on information, ranks went to Fourth Street, Agricola, around 3.15 pm and they were confronted by two armed men; one had a sawn-off shotgun and the other had a handgun.
The statement explained that as the police ranks approached the suspects, they “opened fire on the lawmen who adopted tactical positions and returned fire; during the exchange, the suspect with the shotgun was injured.”
The injured man, who was not identified, was apprehended, while the other man managed to escape the police. The injured suspect was taken to the Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH), where he underwent surgery.
Stabroek News was told that the police were in pursuit of suspects wanted for questioning over the firing of a gun at Grove, on July 5.
The police statement said Parmadai was grazed by a stray bullet and was taken to the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, where she was treated and then discharged.
Her relatives, the police added, took her to a private hospital, where she was admitted.
However, the woman’s husband, Heeralall Gopie, 68, told this newspaper that she was shot, not merely grazed by a bullet.
Gopie said that he was sleeping in a hammock a short distance away from his wife, who was in another hammock, when the shooting occurred.
“When I go to her, she de already bleeding and I tek the phone out she hand like she was trying to call for help. When I tek out the phone out she hands, it fall, I see she hand bleeding and we seeing nuff blood. When she put her hands at the back, after feeling a burning, she realise she was shot there too,” the husband recounted.
He explained that he ran to the street and called for help from neighbours. Although the police heard his cry for help, he noted, they did not offer any assistance. “They continue shooting even when the boys deh trying to get her in the car to take her to the hospital…,” Gopie said.
He added that when they took his wife to the Diamond Diagnostic Centre, they were referred to the GPH after the doctors administered medical attention.
“After they went to Diamond and they couldn’t look after her to do the operation, they carry her to Woodlands,” he said, before adding that they considered the time she might have to wait for treatment at the public hospital before deciding to take her to the private medical institution.
The bullet, doctors told the family, was lodged “very deep inside” and Gopie said that his wife underwent surgery on Wednesday to remove it. It was successful.
According to the man, during the exchange of gunshots, bullets hit a zinc on his shed and a post that was holding up the shed.
Based on the accounts of witnesses, the police were shooting at the alleged bandits from the road.
Gopie said shots were fired through his premises after the suspects used his yard as an escape route. “The police claiming the bandit ran through here (northern side of the house) but he didn’t pass here, he went around to the other side (southern side) and ran through that way,” he explained.
He went on to say that the police were blaming a bandit for shooting the woman while everyone else said it was the police who shot her and that could identify the officer. “They were in front my house, they were at the front shooting and they shoot and even though they didn’t see the boy. Because we were on this side of the house where the bullets were flying and the boy run the other side,” the man pointed out.
Despite the denials, Gopie believes that the police are responsible for the shooting. “These police here, something wrong with some of them. I don’t know what it is. They didn’t act professional on this operation. I don’t know if they didn’t have a clear head when they come. We had many operations like this in this village and never was it like this. The army always come with them and was safer,” the distressed man said.
In September last year, Jean Rodrigues, 54, of 35 Crane, West Coast Demerara was shot while at the Timehri bus park, where a policeman fired while pursuing an alleged suspect. After the suspect surrendered to police, a ballistics examination cleared him of firing a weapon. However, no charge has been laid against the rank responsible for the shooting.