Trinidad: 13 hitmen nabbed in plot to kill state witness outside court

The Tunapuna Administrative Complex where the Tunapuna Magistrates’ Court is located.

(Trinidad Guardian) Thir­teen peo­ple from a well-known gang in the North­ern Di­vi­sion, who were found lurk­ing around the Tu­na­puna Mag­is­trates’ Court on Wednes­day, were ar­rest­ed in con­nec­tion with a plot to mur­der a state wit­ness as he was about to leave the court.

The state wit­ness, 38, gave ev­i­dence in an at­tempt­ed mur­der case on Wednes­day. The at­tempt­ed mur­der oc­curred in 2015 in St Joseph and the vic­tim was said to be leav­ing a fu­ner­al when he was shot. The state wit­ness was an eye­wit­ness to the shoot­ing four years ago.

Guardian Me­dia un­der­stands that the State Wit­ness is cur­rent­ly in the wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gramme but may have gone to the court with­out po­lice pro­tec­tion on Wednes­day to give ev­i­dence.

The ar­rest­ed sus­pects are be­tween the ages of 20 to 35.

Four ve­hi­cles used by the sus­pects – a Ti­i­da, an AD wag­on, an Elantra and H100, which were said to parked in the vicin­i­ty of the court, have al­so been seized and sent for foren­sic analy­sis.

In an of­fi­cial state­ment on the in­ci­dent yes­ter­day, the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) said the of­fi­cers, who are as­signed to the North­ern Di­vi­sion Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit, were com­mend­ed for their strate­gic plan­ning and dili­gent work that led to the ar­rest of male sus­pects.

The of­fi­cers, along with mem­bers of the North­ern Di­vi­sion Task Force Area West and Tu­na­puna and St Joseph Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions De­part­ments, act­ed on in­tel­li­gence re­ceived and took up strate­gic po­si­tions in and around the precincts of the court be­tween 8 am and 6 pm on Wednes­day.

Sur­veil­lance was done on ac­tiv­i­ties and peo­ple in the area, which led to the ar­rest of the sus­pects – sev­en men from St Joseph, three from Mara­cas/St. Joseph, one from St Au­gus­tine, one from Curepe and one from San­ta Cruz.

There have been sim­i­lar at­tempts to tar­get state wit­ness­es and even ac­cused be­fore, as it is of­ten on­ly dur­ing court ap­pear­ances that these in­di­vid­u­als may be most vul­ner­a­ble to com­ing in­to con­tact with oth­er mem­bers of the pub­lic.

On Oc­to­ber 18, 2009, mur­der ac­cused Pe­ter Gar­cia was killed on the com­pound of the Rio Claro Mag­is­trates’ Court by a man dressed as a con­struc­tion work­er.

Gar­cia ap­peared in the court at about 10 am that day and was re­mand­ed in­to cus­tody and or­dered to reap­pear on Oc­to­ber 29, 2009. How­ev­er, at about 10.30 am as he left the court with po­lice of­fi­cers, the gun­man struck, shoot­ing Gar­cia at point-blank range with an au­to­mat­ic firearm. A wit­ness said the law­men, who were sup­posed to pro­tect Gar­cia, fled up­on hear­ing the first shots. This gave a sec­ond gun­man am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ty to walk up to a bleed­ing Gar­cia and fire three more shots in­to his head and chest. The as­sailants then jumped over a fence at the side of the court and fled in­to a wait­ing gold Nis­san Almera.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions in­to the lat­est in­ci­dent out­side the Tu­na­puna court are on­go­ing.

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