The increase of murders and gun violence in the Sea Lots, East Port-of-Spain and Carenage is now believed to be directly linked to the ongoing gang rivalry between two main gangs—the Rasta City and the Muslims.
However, police in the Port-of-Spain and Western Divisions fear that the level of the violence is increasing to levels where women and the innocent are being senselessly killed in attacks to send “strong messages” to those on either side of the turf war.
In the latest killing in Sea Lots, security guard Nigel Francisco, 52, was killed at his Pioneer Drive home yesterday, hours after six members of his family were forced to pack up their belongings and leave the area because of threats made against their lives.
According to preliminary investigations, Francisco’s murder was directly linked to the deadly drive-by shooting on February 3 at Pioneer Drive, Sea Lots. It is believed he was killed because gang members suspected he was an informer.
A resident from the area was arrested by police officers who responded to the crime scene, but there was no confirmation up to press time on whether the man was detained in connection with Francisco’s murder or other unrelated inquiries.
According to a police report, at about 10.30 am residents heard several gunshots coming from Francisco’s house. The police were called in and officers later found Francisco on his living room floor. He is believed to have been shot several times about the body by a high-powered weapon.
Police said they were also told Francisco’s murder was linked to the February 4 murder of 31-year-old mother of two Tracy Julius-Rogers, who was gunned down outside her Sea Lots home less than 12 hours after a drive-by shooting which claimed the lives of Rawle Williams, 37, and calypsonian Patrick Lewis the night before. The attack on a group of men which claimed Williams and Lewis’ lives was said to be a failed hit on community leader Cedric “Burkie” Burke, who escaped unhurt. Subsequent to Rogers’ murder, it was said that she was killed because she was an informer and was believed to have been the person who informed the shooters where the group of men Burke was liming with were the night before.
While residents strongly believe the first attack was a hit on Burke, he himself has said it was not. Rather, he said people in the Sea Lots community were peaceful and it is they who were under attack.
Guardian Media was again told yesterday by Sea Lots residents that they are under attack and there seems to be no protection for their lives. One resident, who wished not to be identified said: “This is a sad reality that we have to live with. I born and grow right here and this shooting and murders have become a normal thing that we have grown accustomed to.”
In a six-minute video that was recently released on social media by a member of the Muslims gang, a male voice named three people, including Burke, alleging that top politicians were afraid of them. The man dared the police to stop patrols and remove the mobile units in the Sea Lots area so that his cohorts could go into the area to kill certain residents.
According to police sources, the crime and gun violence escalated when a well-known individual from John John, whom police said is a high-ranking member of the Muslims gang, was released for prison. Officers describe him as “highly influential” and “very dangerous and fearless, brazen in his acts.”
But police yesterday said they are feverishly working on intelligence and will be “flushing out the gangs throughout T&T, not just in the Port-of-Spain areas.
Just last week, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said he met with Burke in Sea Lots and a gang member from Laventille to send out a stern warning that all gang leaders and members were being marked, monitored and will be brought to justice if they are found engaged in illegal activities. Griffith also reminded them that no turf, no community and no streets belong to any gangs.
At the Sea Lots scene yesterday, several police officers from several units, including Inter-Agency Task Force, Homicide, Besson Street Police Station, responded.
The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) assistant special agent Robert Clark was also taken to the scene briefly. Clark and another colleague, homicide detective Cedric Washington, are currently in T&T aiding the local police on gang violence initiatives.