An off-duty police officer is now being hailed as a hero by his colleagues after he shot and killed a bandit and is believed to have wounded another, following an attempted robbery at a Diego Martin barbershop yesterday.
According to police reports, around 12.30 pm two men barged into Specs Cuts Barbershop along La Puerta Road, coralled the two barbers and five customers, including Insp Kenneth Morgan, into a back room and demanded tickets for an upcoming party scheduled to take place tomorrow in Chaguaramas.
Police said one of the bandits snatched a gold chain off the neck of a patron before sending him to the back room.
While rummaging through the shop for cash and the 20-plus tickets for the Chinatown party, each worth $400, Morgan, who is on vacation, came out of the back room and confronted the gunmen.
During a shootout, the bandit who snatched the gold chain was shot dead and slumped on the roadway outside the barbershop with the stolen item still grasped in his hand. The other bandit, believed to have been injured, escaped in a waiting car with some of the party tickets, police said.
Police are seeking the public's assistance to capture him.
Morgan was shot in the groin and four customers were shot.
A statement from the Police Service said, "A police inspector on vacation leave remains hospitalised suffering from a gunshot wound to the groin area after heroically foiling an armed robbery at a barber shop." Police described his medical condition as "serious."
Hassan Ali, 35, who lives at La Puerta, was shot in the head and up to late last night was listed in a critical condition at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. The bullet went through his head, police said.
Antonio Credlo was shot in one eye and shoulder and is also warded at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. The other injured men were identified as Johnathan Vincent, shot in the buttocks, and Afzard Khan, who was shot in the lower back, right arm and abdomen. They were taken to the St James Medical Complex and later transferred to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
Up to late last night police had no identification for the dead bandit.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, General Secretary of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Insp Anand Ramesar, said his association regards Morgan as a hero. He dismissed claims that the situation might have been avoided had Morgan assessed it and waited until the bandits had left.
"There are some armchair police officers and members of the public who like to criticise the police for the actions and inactions, but we are hailing Morgan as a hero. The time has come for the Commissioner of Police to ensure that all police officers are armed whether on or off-duty. And to the criminals, we want to say we are fighting back, we are fighting fire with fire."
One of the barbers, who spoke with Guardian Media Ltd under condition of anonymity, said the entire incident happened in a flash. He said the two men appeared as though they were customers and were buzzed-in through the security system. As they entered the men pulled out guns and demanded tickets for Chinatown and ordered everyone to a back room.
Morgan, who had only minutes before entered, left the safety of the back room and confronted the men. He said during the shootout between Morgan and the bandits, bullets from the bandits penetrated a wooden door separating the two rooms.
Ali, who was closest to the door, was hit in the head while Credlo and others were also injured.
Speaking with the media at the scene yesterday, a relative of Ali said he is treated "like a prince" in the family. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Ali is the only son and last child to his parents.