President orders police probe of seawall shootings

President David Granger has ordered that the police launch an investigation to determine the circumstances under which three robbery suspects were shot and killed along the Kitty seawall, Georgetown two weeks ago.

“The matter has been dealt with at the National Security Committee and it is my instruction that on any occasion where there is the death of a person by unnatural means, that death should be investigated particularly in the defence and police forces”, Granger told reporters yesterday following an event at State House.

The President said that the Commissioner of Police has received clear instructions about the investigation. “…Even if such instructions were not necessary. He should be proceeding with those instructions”, he said.

He said while he has not received a report, he believes that Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan has.  “I believe that some action will be taken to have the file sent to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) to determine whether there is any blameworthiness in the death of the persons”, Granger added.

He also said that his government has not been silent about the incident while noting that the responses they have made are “decisive and effective”.

The Guyana Human Rights Association and others have called for an independent probe of the deaths.

The three men, Dextroy Cordis, 46, called “Dottie” of Lot 4 Grove Public Road, East Bank Deme-rara; Kwame Assanah, a former soldier, of Buxton, East Coast Demerara, and Errol Adams, 57, called ‘Dynamite,’ of Dartmouth, Essequibo Coast and also Buxton, were fatally shot north of the GNS sports ground after police said they opened fire on ranks.

The men, this newspaper was told, were about to execute a robbery on a customer who had withdrawn $9.2 million from the bank.

The Guyana Police Force, in a statement, had said that both Cordis and Assanah were identified to them as “two suspicious looking characters” spotted in a car in the vicinity of Scotiabank. They reportedly later trailed a bank customer to the seawall location and police followed them.

“At this time the two suspicious looking characters in the motorcar, drove up to the customer’s vehicle and exited, one brandishing a small arm at the customer,” the statement said.

“At the same time the police anti-crime patrol, which by now was in close proximity called out to the suspicious looking characters but the one who was armed discharged several rounds at the police who returned fire,” it added

As a result, Cordis and Assanah were fatally shot. Cordis appeared to have been the only one armed and questions have been raised about why Assanah was not subdued by non-lethal force.

The statement went on to say that seconds after the exchange of fire, two men were spotted on a CG motorbike near the dead men’s vehicle and one of them opened fired on the police, who again returned fire. As a result, police said Adams was fatally shot, while his accomplice sped away on the bike.

On Monday, Devon Lyte who claimed to be an eyewitness provided a version different from the police’s and gave a sworn statement through his attorney Nigel Hughes.  He said he was working on the roof of the Guyana Softball Association building on Carifesta Avenue at the time.

Hours after, the statement was submitted to the police and arrangements were made to have Lyte return the following day to be interviewed by a senior detective.

However, on Tuesday Lyte did not show up and Hughes said that he needed 24 hours.

Lyte’s account of what took place on the day in question differs significantly from that of the police.

He told reporters on Monday that he was on the roof of the building just before midday on March 15th when he heard a “banging” sound coming from the seawall.

“When I looked up, I saw that the police had blocked off the road at the top of Camp Road. I then heard shots being fired and I saw there were two cars driving along the seawall road. A black car was in front and it was being followed by a silver car,” he said.

Based on his account, the black car was occupied by Cordis, Assanah and Adams, while the silver car was an unmarked police vehicle. “…The car from behind start opening fire; I don’t know if it’s at the [black] car or up in the air  or what may be the case,” Lyte said. “The black vehicle, which was in front, stopped, then I saw one person come out of the black car and stood up at the front driver door,” he added.

The driver of the black car was Assanah.

“I then saw about one person come out of the silver car. He walked towards the black car. I then saw the person from the silver car [the police] start to beat the person who had come out from the driver’s side [Assanah] and was lying on the ground,” he said, while noting that the person was beaten while still on the ground.

Twenty minutes later, Lyte said that he heard rapid gunfire. At the time he heard the rapid gunfire, there was one person standing over the same person who was lying on the ground.

He said he did not witness any exchange of gunfire and was unable to say if the police were fired upon. There were two bullet holes in the police vehicle and a gun was reportedly recovered from one of the dead men. “Well, I won’t be able to say upon that part because yuh can’t see the distance away who exchange fire with the police. I won’t be able to say if the guy shoot at the police or the police shoot at them own vehicle or what,” Lyte said.

However, while the police had said that there were three vehicles present at the scene, Lyte said there was only the black vehicle and the silver vehicle. He was adamant that there was no motorcycle or fourth suspect in the picture.

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