The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has recommended that an inquest be held into the March 15th fatal shooting of three men, who police said were robbery suspects, along the Kingston seawall, in Georgetown.
Commissioner of Police (ag) David Ramnarine yesterday confirmed that the DPP advised that an inquest be held into the killings.
“A short while ago, I was informed that we have received the legal advice to the extent that an inquest is to be held into the fatal shooting at the Kingston seawall,” Ramnarine told reporters yesterday morning at his Eve Leary office.
Ramnarine noted that the investigation was conducted by the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which he noted has earned a respected reputation over the years for doing efficient investigations in a transparent manner.
“There might have been insinuations that to send it to some other body or unit within the force might not have been the right thing to do, so I am pleased that it went to the right office, the proper office and I am satisfied that the advice we have received—that it should go for an inquest—we are satisfied with that,” he explained.
Ramnarine said when the inquest is being held, the force will do everything in its power to ensure that the ranks who were involved are available.
The three men—Dextroy Cordis, 46, called “Dottie” of Lot 4 Grove Public Road, East Bank Demerara; 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The men, the police said, were about to execute a robbery on a customer who had withdrawn $9.2 million from the bank.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 on the day of the shootings, said both Cordis and Assanah were identified as “two suspicious looking characters” who were spotted in a car in the vicinity of Scotiabank on Robb Street. They were said to have later trailed the bank customer to the seawall. Police followed in an unmarked vehicle.
“…[They] drove up to the customer’s vehicle and exited, one brandishing a small arm at the customer,” the police statement said.
At this time, police said an anti-crime patrol, which was in close proximity, called out to the men but the one who was armed fired several rounds at the police, who returned fire.
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 added 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 fire on the police, who again returned fire. As a result, police said Adams was fatally shot, while his accomplice sped away on the bike.
There have been calls for the killings to be independently investigated from the inception, given the fact that at least one of the men was shot in the back and appeared to have injuries indicative of him having been beaten. These calls were bolstered on March 26th, when Devon Lyte, who claimed to be an eyewitness, provided an account of the shooting that differed from the police’s and gave a sworn statement alongside his attorney, Nigel Hughes.
Lyte said he was working on the roof of the Guyana Softball Association building on Carifesta Avenue at the time of the shooting. Based on his account, Cordis, Assanah and Adams, who were in a black car, were being pursued by the unmarked police vehicle. He said the black vehicle eventually stopped and the driver, Assanah, exited. “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, there was rapid gunfire and 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.
Since’s Lyte’s public statement, the police have been unable to conduct an interview with him or other reported witnesses as Hughes has indicated that they are fearful for their lives and would not participate in this process if witness protection were not given.
Asked whether the police have been able to interview Lyte and the two other ‘witnesses’ yesterday, Ramnarine responded in the negative. “What I do know is that there was much publicity on persons or some persons who indicated that they had seen, persons who had been on the rooftop, persons who seem to know a lot about what transpired but I can confidently say that those persons did not come to the police neither were they bought to the police by anyone,” he noted.