Investigators believe the broad daylight murders of two men who were gunned down while in the car park of South Park Mall, in San Fernando on Thursday, was a well planned execution.
Malik Straker, also known as M1 and Molly, 31, of Wallerfield, Arima, and Joel Chambers, 29, of Morvant had no way of escaping when gunmen opened fire on a silver AD wagon in which they seated around noon.
While police are still trying to determine a motive, police said Straker was a gang member, had pending court matters for several serious crimes, and had information that could have assisted them in solving at least four murders.
Initial police reports stated that around midday, the men were seated in the front seats of the wagon when a Volkswagen Jetta pulled up.
No eye-witnesses have yet come forward. Police believe occupants, with high powered guns, came out and opened fire on the vehicle—riddling the vehicle with holes.
Amateur footage circulating on social media shows people peeping through the bullet holes in the windows before the police arrived and trying to figure out how many bodies were inside the wagon.
Several other vehicles were in the car park, but there were no reports of damage to the other vehicles or injury to anyone else.
A man who was parked about two cars away, told reporters he had left his car about 10 minutes before the shooting. He said he got to the mall around 11.45 am and went to the gym.
He said they heard the loud explosions in the gym but he did not think they were gunshots.
“We heard it in the gym but we did not know that it was bullets, most of us thought it was just a tire that had burst, until, I was next to the mirror and I see a guy running along the side of South Park screaming bullets, bullets,” he said.
Grateful that he had left his car before the shooting took place, he said, “I was surprised because is not like is in the night or is not around people, is in South Park, around so much people. And, apparently no one saw it but that’s just so hard to believe because it is a pretty densely populated area, people working in the stores, people going to the gym in and out always hustling, walking all around the place. Is more of a shock than anything that people so brazen.”
He had to wait about two hours before he could leave the car park because the police were processing the scene.
Police believe that Straker had vital information about last year’s murders of Kareem Walters, also known as Pinto Boss and Crime Boss of Pinto Road in Arima, Gabriel Mitchell, 25, of Pinto Road, Kelvin Gordon, 40, of Arima, and Marcus “Papa” Thomas of Valencia.
Police told Guardian Media that Straker also had pending matters at the Arima and Sangre Grande Magistrates’ Court for kidnapping for ransom, false imprisonment, attempted murder, possession of ammunition and firearm, robbery with aggravation, malicious woundings and common assault.
Chambers, however, was charged in 2018 for malicious damage, marijuana trafficking, dangerous driving, driving without a driver’s permit and without a certificate of insurance.
Meanwhile, Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce president Kiran Singh has expressed concern over the brazen murders.
He said, “The business community was certainly alarmed to hear of this recent shooting where two male individuals were murdered in broad daylight in the South Park car park. Of course it doesn’t auger well in the confidence of the business community with customers shopping and so on. We know the TTPS continues to do an extremely good job with restricting serious crimes and petty crimes in the South Western district and the Southern Division.”
Noting that from initial reports the murders appeared to be a hit, he said, “We wish for these criminal elements to continue to stay where they are from and not to filter down to the districts of the southern region.”
Also expressing concern, San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello said the safety of citizens, children and families in a shopping area must be priority.
“As the mayor, while I do not have the solution to this problem, I will do my best to ensure safety and security for our citizens.
I am going to ask that the owners of the shopping malls including C3, Gulf City Mall, and South Park Mall meet with us, the TTPS and Municipal police next week to prevent another occurrence of incidents such as these. We must tell the criminals do not use San Fernando as a meeting point. Do not use San Fernando as an execution point. When we look at those two men who were killed today they are not from San Fernando. Obviously, it was an arrangement for them to meet in a popular spot for this act to be carried out, “ he added.
While the police has been working assiduously to combat crime, the mayor said he intends to also discuss with acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob further crime prevention methods in the inner and outer city. Meanwhile, investigators have sought out CCTV footage to aid them in their investigations.
Officers of the Homicide Bureau of Investigations Region 3 are investigating.