A prison officer and his family have been placed in protective custody after their Belmont home was targeted in a shooting between Saturday night and yesterday morning.
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Man survives hate crime
“Do you believe in God?” one of Akil Thomas’ attackers asked him.
Thomas replied: “Yes.”
His attacker continued: “...because you are going to die here tonight.”
Thomas was then stabbed 13 times—six stabs to the back, two to the chest, two in the arms, two in the neck and one on the right side of his head, close to the temple. One of the stabs punctured his lungs.
Lying in his hospital bed at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital yesterday, Thomas thanked God for life.
“My spirit man is not broken and I am eternally grateful to God for life. I believe that I am alive today because of God’s extra love for me,” he said.
Last Sunday, Thomas turned 26, but his day was very depressing. So he decided to accept an invitation to go out with a male friend he had known on Facebook for over a year.
“I met this guy on Facebook and we began talking but I stopped after he came on a bit sexually aggressive towards me. It was only recently I saw him online and I said ‘Hey, stranger,’ to him. It was then we began talking to each other again. The talk then led to him asking me out for a small lime.”
Sunday was Thomas’s birthday but he was spending it alone.
“It was my birthday and usually my friends would plan a big lime for me but this year was different. I was at home all day.
“It was in the night, he just asked me to go to the beach and anywhere there is water I am very happy and he knew this. So I took it as an opportunity to go out so I could take my mind off things.”
Thomas lost both his parents years ago. His father died after suffering a stroke in 2003 and his mother died of a heart attack in 2010. He was abandoned by his siblings.
Thomas said he befriended the other man online and spoke to him about his life, his likes and dislikes.
“The truth is, I gravitated towards meeting this person because of the state of mind I was in. He knew a lot about me so when he said we would go to the beach I obliged.
“However, while I was dressing I began to feel very sceptical. I should have listened to my initial instincts. Looking back now as to what took place, I should have stayed at home.
“He kept calling me while I was dressing so I guess it gave me the more reason to go out and relax not knowing what would have happened to me.”
At about 8.30 pm he left his east Port-of-Spain home and made his way to the Cocorite Fishing Depot.
“I met the guy and we began talking, just a normal conversation. Suddenly about five other guys ran out from some bushes and I dashed into the water and began to swim out. While swimming out I remembered my friend and looked back.
“That was when I saw him standing on the shore with the rest of guys. They were throwing stones at me.
“When I realised that I was set up, I began to panic. Three of the guys came into the water and swam towards me and pulled me out of the water. They then asked me what I have on me. They took my money, my phone and my shoes.
“It was at this point I was asked if I believed in God and was told that I am going to die tonight. They began stabbing me about the body. All that time I was crying out to God. I am not a bad person so I was not worried because I kept my mind focused on God. I was at peace.”
Even while he slumped to the sand, he recalled: “I could hear the guys telling one of them things. It sounded like an initiation process to join a gang. I lay there bleeding from the wounds and to try and save my life I decided to play dead.
“This was when the guys stopped dealing me stabs. One of them called out to me but I never responded. I lay still as though I was dead. This was when they left. When I realised that they left I managed to make my way to the main road where I slumped on the roadway and was assisted to the St James Hospital by passersby.”
Thomas believes the attack was a hate crime as he openly belongs to the LGBT community.
“It is important for people to understand that regardless of race, colour, social standings, that people intent on doing harm to others would just go ahead and do it. I think generally people who have ill-intentions will prey on minority people, which is easier,” he said.
Thomas warned everyone using social media networks to be vigilant.
Police at the St James station yesterday took an official statement from Thomas and are pursuing several leads in the attack.