Trinidad CoP suggests gangster’s bullet killed 14-year-old during police shootout

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith speaks to members of the media during the police briefing at the Police Administration Building, yesterday.

(Trinidad Guardian) Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith yes­ter­day pre­sent­ed a graph­ic which sug­gest­ed 14-year-old Nao­mi Nel­son may have been killed by a bul­let to the head from an il­le­gal gun fired by Care­nage res­i­dents and not the po­lice.

How­ev­er, he re­fused to be pressed in­to con­firm­ing what the graph­ic seemed to be sug­gest­ing, say­ing he would leave it up to the pub­lic to de­cide.

The illustration of the police-involved shooting which Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith used yesterday to suggest it was a bullet from an alleged gangster and not an officer which killed resident Naomi Nelson.

Speak­ing at the week­ly me­dia brief­ing at the Po­lice Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing in Port-of-Spain, Grif­fith said it was not his of­fi­cers that drew first blood be­fore show­ing the me­dia a screen that de­pict­ed an im­age show­ing the po­si­tion of of­fi­cers and al­leged gang mem­bers at the shoot­ing scene last Fri­day night at Big Yard, Care­nage.

He ex­plained that the of­fi­cers en­tered the area from the West­ern Main Road and head­ed north in their un­marked ve­hi­cle when they were al­leged­ly fired up­on by the al­leged gang mem­bers on the block, who were fac­ing south. Us­ing the im­age to ex­plain fur­ther, he said the teen was be­hind the po­lice ve­hi­cle when the shoot­ing start­ed, sug­gest­ing she would have been be­hind the of­fi­cers and fac­ing the al­leged gang mem­bers who were shoot­ing at the po­lice.

“A young la­dy was killed be­cause of this fire­fight…one shot (re­fer­ring to a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle)…every­one saw it fit to say that the po­lice was the one fired the shot and killed the young la­dy—they (re­fer­ring to the al­leged gang mem­bers) fired to­wards the po­lice ve­hi­cle and what was be­hind the po­lice ve­hi­cle was the young la­dy—get the facts first be­fore per­cep­tion be­comes a re­al­i­ty,” Grif­fith said.

When asked if any il­le­gal firearms were re­cov­ered from the scene, he said he was yet to ver­i­fy but added that he be­lieved two il­le­gal guns were re­cov­ered, in­clud­ing the one used in shoot­ing one of the of­fi­cers, along with the spent shells.

Naomi Nelson

Ex­plain­ing his the­o­ry for why the shootout oc­curred, Grif­fith said it had be­come the “norm” for cer­tain gang mem­bers to feel that a cer­tain area, turf or com­mu­ni­ty be­longs to them, adding there were sit­u­a­tions where un­marked po­lice ve­hi­cles en­tered cer­tain ar­eas and gang­sters would fire shots at them or even ve­hi­cles they did not recog­nise.

“Just a few days ago a woman po­lice of­fi­cer was dri­ving and she went in­to an area and a no­to­ri­ous gang leader was there and they were not aware of that ve­hi­cle and they start­ed fir­ing shots at her…that is what is hap­pen­ing in this coun­try,” Grif­fith said.

“So the con­cern that peo­ple are hav­ing with po­lice of­fi­cers be­ing on pa­trols in un­marked ve­hi­cles, well, those per­sons who are con­cerned should know that I in­tend to put 50 more of these un­marked ve­hi­cles and flood these ar­eas, be­cause no area, no street, no com­mu­ni­ty and no block be­longs to any crim­i­nal el­e­ment and that is what has hap­pened in Big Yard in Care­nage with these in­di­vid­u­als…they saw an un­marked ve­hi­cle and they de­cid­ed to fire.”

He al­so ex­pressed con­cern no one cared that one of his of­fi­cers was shot in the chest while on du­ty.

“No one men­tioned the fact that a po­lice of­fi­cer was shot and his life saved be­cause he had on a bul­let­proof vest and he would have fired the shot to save his life af­ter the fact that he was shot at…we did not draw first blood.”

An au­top­sy done on Tues­day at the Foren­sic Sci­ence Cen­tre found that Nel­son was shot in the back of the head with the bul­let ex­it­ing to the front.

Nel­son’s rel­a­tives strong­ly be­lieve she was hit by a bul­let of a po­lice of­fi­cer’s gun but bal­lis­tic test­ing, which is now pend­ing, will even­tu­al­ly de­ter­mine whose bul­let the gun was fired from.

Nel­son, who at­tend­ed the Mu­cu­rapo West Sec­ondary School and was a mem­ber of the West­ern Di­vi­sion Po­lice Youth Club, was killed along with Keron Eve, 30 and Ka­reem Roberts, 27. Chris­t­ian Eve, 31 and Ronal­do Syd­ney, 21, who is said to be the God­son of Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, were al­so wound­ed in the shoot­ing. Syd­ney has a bul­let lodged in the ab­domen that is said to be mov­ing clos­er to the spine.

Asked about the al­le­ga­tions of rogue of­fi­cers’ in­volve­ment in Fri­day’s shoot­ing, Grif­fith said it was easy for peo­ple to de­monise the po­lice ser­vice and called on peo­ple with in­for­ma­tion to “bring it.”

“Peo­ple on­ly talk about rogue el­e­ments in the Po­lice Ser­vice and they are not speak­ing about politi­cians, me­dia and the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. They al­ways fo­cus on the po­lice ser­vice…those of­fi­cers go out every day and put their lives on the line… we are do­ing every­thing pos­si­ble to weed out the rogue el­e­ments and it shows a de­gree of trans­paren­cy and ac­count­abil­i­ty. Bring it to our at­ten­tion if you have and bring the ev­i­dence and we will deal with it.”

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