The young couple, who was killed by police in a shooting in Santa Cruz, on Friday night, was using a borrowed vehicle.
Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday, a source close to the family claimed that 19-year-old Rochyon King Ashterman and his girlfriend Kristan Kerri Serries were liming in Santa Cruz when they borrowed a friend’s car to get something to eat.
Like residents of the community, the source claimed the couple surrendered before they were shot by officers of the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) along La Canoa Road.
The source claimed that it may have been a case of mistaken identity as the owner of the car is known to police and the vehicle was suspected to have been used for criminal activity within the community.
In a press release issued hours after the shooting, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) sought to give its version of the events.
It claimed that SORT officers were conducting an exercise in the community when they stopped the couple’s vehicle.
“When the SORT officers alighted from their vehicle to conduct a routine search, they were fired upon by the occupants of the vehicle, injuring one of the officers in the leg. In keeping with the use of force policy, police returned fire wounding the two occupants,” the release stated. It also claimed that loaded firearm was found in the car.
In a subsequent release, outspoken Police Commissioner Gary Griffith sought to question the claims of the couple’s friends and limers at a bar in the community, who witnessed the incident and claimed that the couple was unarmed. One of the limers was also wounded by a stray bullet in the incident and remained warded in hospital, up to yesterday.
Griffith said: “It is amazing that residents always have bionic eyes when the police are defending their lives against imminent threats, but of the 340-plus persons killed this year, for some in that same area, with the same bionic eyes, they conveniently wear blinkers and wee nothing nor do they seem to be concerned, because you never hear their voices when gang members kill innocent persons.”
Griffith also provided a photograph of a police vehicle which was allegedly shot during the incident.
In an interview at his Tacarigua home, yesterday afternoon, Ashterman’s father Rodney “Fireball” King said that his family was having difficulties in believing the police’s story.
“With the opinions and false accusations being circulated right now, I am trying to not take it on and not be phased by it. We know the truth,” King said.
King, a popular radio announcer and DJ with Guardian Media, had just finished work when he got the news of the shooting. King described his teenage son as a “photocopy” of him.
“He was very cool, very ambitious and loving,” King said, as he noted that his son was in the process of opening a graphic design business.
While King acknowledged that the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) would be conducting an independent investigation into the incident, he said it provided no comfort to him and his family.
“We would cry for justice but nothing would happen. It would be just another statistic or another one on another day,” King said.
King admitted that he may have been judgemental in the past when he came across similar stories of police killings.
“I myself had my opinions, so I can’t forgive myself now that I am in that situation,” King said.