Last week, Kwame Assanah, Dextroy Cordis and Errol Adams were killed by the police. Assanah and Cordis were said to have followed a customer from a city bank to the seawall, where it is alleged that their intention was to rob the individual. Assanah and Cordis were trailed by the police, a shootout occurred, and the two men were killed. Two other men shortly thereafter entered the scene on a motorcycle, the police say, and there was another exchange of gunfire, which left Adams dead while the other man managed to escape.

The killings have raised many questions. In the initial shootout, there was one gun and two suspects, yet both men were shot at least six times and killed. In defending the killings, the acting police commissioner, David Ramanarine, asserted that the police officers involved in the shooting had “superior firearms training.” However, if the suspects had one gun, it therefore means only one man was shooting at the police. So why were both men killed? Couldn’t the police officers with “superior firearms training” disarm or injure the suspects? Are we to believe that Assanah, who was unarmed, walked into the bullets? And six gunshots? Are one or two bullets not enough to weaken and restrain a person?

I knew Kwame Assanah. We were acquaintances and whenever we crossed paths would acknowledge each other and have a brief chat. Those who knew him would remember him as a polite young man who always greeted you with a smile.

To see the bloodied image of a person you knew and to be uncertain about what led to their demise is difficult. I will never get accustomed to seeing bloodied images of murdered men. We are so inconsiderate in releasing such images. There is no thought for loved ones, especially relatives, like the children of the deceased, who may see those images and be haunted for life. But it is no secret that we live in a callous society. All lives do not matter here.

Like many others, I have no tolerance for those who commit robberies. We all know someone who has been a victim or we ourselves may have been victims. It is horrifying to be taken advantage of by ruthless men who would kill or hurt you if they do not get their way. Many people are traumatised for a long time after such experiences.

In the case of Assanah, I do not know if he was guilty of what he has been accused of. The police’s defence is that he was a part of a criminal enterprise. He is not here to tell his story, and neither are Cordis or Adams.

It is unfortunate, however, that after this young man’s death, efforts have been made to obliterate the person he was known to be. In an early report, it was stated that he was known to be involved in criminal activities. That was quickly proven to be untrue. Not only did not have a criminal record, but he had only recently received a police clearance for a new job.

It is difficult to comprehend how a young man, who did not have a criminal history and was unarmed, deserved to be executed.

How are his relatives supposed to accept that? Are their questions not valid? Are they not supposed to mourn and seek answers, especially since they did not know him to be a criminal? Yes, many criminals wear disguises, but I must ask: If two men are in the possession of one gun against the police with “superior firearms training,” who most certainly would not have just one weapon in that fight, was shooting them six times and killing them the only answer?

When cases like these occur, there are often four voices.   There is the voice of the police, who more often than not are considered to be in the right. The killings will always be “justified” because they would have felt at risk. Even if their story is not the whole truth, the truth will never be revealed, because the voices of the dead are forever silent. And, of course, we must ask the question, what if a police officer was killed?

There are also the voices of the public, which are split between the people who want answers that make sense with no uncertainties, and those who rejoice because they are tired of the criminals. I do understand the rage for many robbers are ruthless and would not hesitate to kill their victims if the need arises. Many people speak or are thinking from a point of trauma.

And then there is the voice of the relatives who seek answers and are often mocked for mourning their dead, even in cases where the dead may have been innocent.

In a country where we have seen too many extrajudicial killings, men shot and killed under mysterious circumstances should make all of us uncomfortable.

It is easy to say ‘kill dem out’ or ‘good riddance’ because we are angry and tired of being taken advantage of when armed robbers steal what we work for. But what happens if we or an innocent relative were to become the next victim?  When we accept extrajudicial killings in our society as the answer, we all are at risk. When we do not ask questions in cases such as the seawall shooting, we encourage a dangerous culture where it is acceptable to shoot men dead when they could be otherwise detained.

Those who choose to engage in robberies are expressing symptoms of greater problems in our society. While some people choose that way of life because they refuse to make efforts to otherwise earn their share, there are those who are desperate to survive in a society where they are either not equipped with the skills to earn enough to live comfortably, were failed by their parents who did not make the necessary provisions to ensure their futures were secure, are lacking role models or are in a dilemma because the government has failed to manage resources efficiently so that all the citizens of the country can enjoy their fair share and the good life.

But will healing come by shooting men down in the streets, guilty or not? And if all those who engage in armed robberies are killed, does it erase crime from our society? We often forget the other criminals. Like the men in suits and ties involved in fraud and stealing from the nation. Those who have gotten rich from illegal activities, such as the drug trade. They all should anger us, but they often hide behind the tinted windows. Would the police shoot them dead on in the streets without trial and try to rewrite their life stories? I will wait.

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