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Police, soldiers, residents clash in Laventille

Published: 
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Brothers Jahel, right, and Jeremiah St John fill their bottles from a spring along Laventille Road, under the watchful eye of a female police officer moments after residents staged a fiery midday protest in their area yesterday. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

A fiery, violent clash between residents of Desperlie Crescent, Laventille, and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force yesterday morning triggered two road blocks, protests and left one soldier nursing gunshot wounds to the knee. The unrest, according to residents, was sparked by the shooting death of 19-year-old resident and soon-to-be dad Keshorn Daniel.

 

 

Reports state that around 12.35 yesterday morning, police on foot patrol observed Daniel and two other men acting suspiciously and as they attempted to approach the three, the men opened fire on the policemen. The police shot back at the men and Daniel was killed, while the other two escaped. Hours later, the residents dragged debris across the access roads to Desperlie Crescent and set it ablaze.

 

Police and soldiers were called out to assist. As gunshots reverberated throughout the small community, an off-duty soldier, identified only as Cpl Williams, was shot in the knee. Residents, however, have denied that Daniel was shooting at the police. They claimed Daniel could not have been armed as he was searched moments before by cops who were on patrol. Residents said he was making his way back home, eating a box of food when he was shot by other police on foot patrol.

 

The Sunday Guardian learned that police found a .40 calibre Smith and Wesson pistol near Daniel’s body. According to police, weapons of that calibre have the potential to puncture bullet-proof vests and as such put police in danger. 

 

 

This is the second such weapon recovered in less than 48 hours. On Thursday, two suspected robbers were shot dead by police moments before they were reportedly about to commit a crime. Police then found two loaded guns—a .40 calibre Smith and Wesson pistol and a .38 revolver and several spent shells. This latest development has members of the police force concerned and fearful that they are outgunned by the criminals.

 

At the heated clashes near Caanan Hill and at Desperlie Crescent, police guarded Port-of-Spain City Corporation workers who attempted to put out the blazes and used bulldozers to clear away debris. National Security Minister Gary Griffith is currently in New York, but in a text message exchange with the Sunday Guardian said he was aware of the killing and the subsequent shoot-out.

 

In a subsequent release, the regiment seemed to focus more on the fact that the criminal element was dressing in military garb and impersonating their officers.

 

 

Protest action...
Hours after Daniel died, the residents gathered despite an already massive police presence and dragged debris onto the streets, effectively blocking access to Desperlie Crescent. While police acted swiftly to break up that protest, another began near Clifton Courts, a short distance away from the Besson Street Police Station. The Sunday Guardian understands that this new protest and the proximity to the police station triggered another massive outpouring from surrounding police stations, and policemen converged in the area.

 

The ensuing standoff between the heavily armed police officers and the angry, jeering residents lasted several hours. One resident repeatedly walked past the stationed police officers saying loudly that while police had to “check in their weapons,” they (the residents) were always armed. This, one police officer noted, “sounded like a threat.” At least one resident called for National Security Minister Gary Griffith to resign.

 

Insp Wayne Mystar, information officer of the Police Service, assured residents that a full-scale investigation would be launched into the killing of the resident. 

 

 

—with reporting by Jensen LaVende

 

 

Sequence of Events:
The police story
A source at National Security revealed the sequence of events:
• At 0640 hrs Insp Singh (TTPS liaison) received a call from Insp Mystar (TTPS) requesting air and TTDF (T&T Defence Force) support to assist police officers in the Desperlie Crescent and surrounding area.
• At 0701 hrs Viper 2 airborne from Cumuto en route to Laventille reference protests in affected areas.
• At 1018 hrs it was reported to the Command Centre that a soldier and a civilian were both shot in the Block 8 area.
• At 1127 hrs information arrived that the soldier who was shot was Cpl Williams and he was warded at the PoSGH in a stable condition.
• At 1140 hrs TTPS Command Centre reported that the protest was slowing down.