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Cops, burglar in 4-hour standoff
A four-hour “standoff” between police and a burglar inside the building housing 51 Degrees nightclub and Town Restaurant on Cipriani Boulevard, Port-of-Spain, ended with police tear-gassing the man and nabbing him.
The culprit, a 28-year-old man of Chaguanas, was among four people who broke into the property housing the two entertainment spots early yesterday morning.
Acting Senior Supt McDonald Jacobs, who headed police operations, said three of them escaped earlier.
The last culprit who was apprehended had concealed himself in the ceiling of 51 Degrees and attempted to escape through the air-conditioning vent.
A hunt was on yesterday for the other three. A number of items was reported missing, including liquor from Town Restaurant. No shots were fired during the exercise and no one was injured, Jacobs said.
The culprit, dressed in dark jersey and pants, with a piece of cloth around his neck — to protect himself from the gas fumes — appeared uninjured.
He remained defiant even after being hauled out of the building by police and seated in a police vehicle. He threatened reporters through the glass saying he would “come for them.”
Residents in the area woke to a squad of police in the area just after 5 am. Jacobs said police had received a call around 5 am from a security firm concerning the building about a breach of the structure.
Police also blocked off the area behind Town Restaurant, from Woodford Street to Tragarete Road. They later reopened it to traffic.
Jacobs said it was believed the gang entered Town Restaurant from an abandoned building behind. A building in that vicinity has been empty for the last three years.
Jacobs said police hoped to get more information from CCTV cameras along Woodford Street.
In the ensuing drama, police took up spots atop the building. They searched the homes of residents on Woodford Street, adjoining Town Restaurant. Residents reported shouts from police when the man was located.
Cameras picked up the man entering 51 Degrees around 3.30 am.
The man entered the AC duct just after 5 am when police began arriving. Officers detected his footsteps.
As the sun came up, more police and a fire tender arrived. A low-flying police helicopter circled the area.
Just after 8 .30 am police fired off a flash-bang device (non- lethal sound bomb designed to disorient) and the gas into the building to flush out the culprit, following which he ran into the air duct.
The T&T Guardian learned he tried to force his way out a gap. Fire officers had to cut him out of the area, it is understood.
Fumes from the gas affected some residents and a few officers who were seen washing out their eyes.
An officer, who emerged on the balcony area of 51 Degrees, gave a thumbs up around 9.23 am. Police emerged from the building shortly after with the handcuffed culprit.
Jacobs said: “It wasn’t an inside job. The man hasn’t worked at either of the two businesses. We are contacting the Chaguanas police to see if he has matters there.”
Jacobs said the four had come armed with implements — a pig foot, power saw and screw drivers — to break in. No weapons were found.
Sharma Basdeo, father of Town Restaurant owner, Jenna Sharma, shepherded his staff into the building immediately after the man was taken away.
Manager of Town Restaurant, Kampta Ermani, said the restaurant was ready to resume business yesterday. The 51 Degrees club also opened.