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.