Another prison officer was killed on Monday, four days after a colleague was also murdered.
The officer has been identified as Nigel Jones, of Los Bajos, Santa Flora.
Jones was last assigned to the Wayne Jackson Building – Building 13 at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca.
In an immediate reaction, Prisons Commissioner Dennis Pulchan said, “There are cold- blooded killers out there who want to do harm to prison officers for doing their jobs.”
In a video that went viral hours after the killing, Jones was seen holding the hand of his three-year-old daughter while standing at the corner of the Old Siparia Road Junction, near the Fyzabad Taxi Stand in Siparia, when a vehicle pulled up alongside them. The video showed two sets of hands with guns opening fire at him.
As Jones fell to the ground, his daughter is seen jumping and frantically running around in fear.
Two people standing nearby ran towards her to prevent her from running out onto the busy road. One of them was seen holding her in an attempt to comfort the screaming and traumatised child.
Guardian Media was told that Jones was taking his daughter home after attending a birthday party.
The same video, which was described as “chilling” and “heart-wrenching,” also showed a marked police vehicle proceeding seconds behind the suspects’ vehicle and seemingly in full view of what transpired and with the prison officer already on the ground.
Viewers on social media, including colleagues of the prison officer, expressed outrage and questioned why the officers in the vehicle did not react to catch the suspects.
One senior prison officer, who asked not to be identified, told Guardian Media, “Did you see the police vehicle five seconds after the shooting drove behind the vehicle? To protect? So the big question is was the police vehicle a cover for the shooters to get away?”
In another video that also went viral, it showed a man in a white vest frisking the body of the dead officer in full view of onlookers and then taking his (Jones’) licensed firearm from out of the right pocket of his jeans. A woman was also heard screaming when she witnessed the theft of the gun.
There were voices heard in the video alleging that the man in the vest was Jones’ brother. It was also reported that the man allegedly handed over Jones’ firearm to the police.
Jones is the fifth officer from the Maximum Security Prison to be killed within a five-year period and the 27th officer to be murdered over the past 30 years.
Just on Friday, Jones’ colleague, prisons officer Trevor Serrette, was killed in Valencia.
In that incident at about 1.30 pm, Serrette was conducting business at his fruit and vegetable stall when a gunman ambushed him and fatally shot him.
Serrette was a Prisons Officer II and was also assigned to the Wayne Jackson Building. Serrette was described as a “very straightforward no-nonsense officer.”
Pulchan yesterday described the recent murders to the Guardian Media during a telephone interview as “an attack on the country, on law enforcement.”
“This is not a prison issue, it’s a National Security issue. The T&T Prison Service is a member of the national security landscape and everything that can be done is going to be done,” Pulchan added.
Pulchan explained that being a prison officer is one of the most high-risk jobs in the country right now and urged all officers to be on the alert and to be cautious.
“There are cold-blooded killers out there who want to do harm to prison officers for doing their jobs.”
Pulchan promised to do “what is necessary to get to the root of the problem.”
“I’m not comfortable. My officers are falling. At the end of the day, a prison officer is there to do a job. He’s not there to fight anyone. He’s there to maintain security. It’s his job. There are criminal elements in the prison walls who take this seriously and go against them for just doing their jobs,” Pulchan said.
“That is unacceptable,” he added.
Prisons Officers’ Association general secretary Lester Walcott, when contacted, was overwhelmed with emotions but told Guardian Media that the relevant authorities need to embark on drastic measures on murderers, particularly those who carry out executions without any hesitation.
“Whatever we’re doing is not working. We have a mandate to deal with high-risk, some of the most dangerous persons in national security in terms of persons who would have committed crimes, murders, extortion, even associated with the killing of attorneys. So we have persons within a prison system who have far-reaching hands and when they decided through a ministerial order to establish a separation in building 13, or the Wayne Jackson Building, certain things were done to say ‘alright we will isolate these persons, we’ll have a particular hold on their ability to call instructions within the prison walls or the ability to carry out hits’. When the action took place, it had great resistance, some activist groups came out and spoke against violence and prisoners but it has reached a point where the prison officer is a very easy target because the information I got from behind the walls of the Wayne Jackson Building, persons who are there have far-reaching hands indicated that a prison officer will be killed every week until they are moved out of Building 13. So when you have such information and the ability to carry out these things by persons...we weren’t trained for guerilla warfare and terrorist activities. Whatever is being done to preserve the lives of prison officers is not working,” Walcott said.
He added” “I think that unless some drastic measures are done where they start to execute murderers in a short possible time, abandoning all the Pratt and Morgan and these Privy Council that profess that it’s human rights violation, these people are brutal you have to return something to generate fear in the individuals.”
Pulchan, in a release issued by the T&T Prisons Service last evening, said that he hoped law enforcement agencies leave no stone unturned in bringing these cold-blooded murderers to justice.
He also reminded all staff members “to be extremely vigilant and cautious, particularly when off duty.”
Efforts to reach Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob for comment were unsuccessful as calls to their phone went unanswered.
However, Hinds is expected to host a media conference this morning at the ministry and there’s speculation that the concerns of prisons officers will be addressed alongside the upsurge of murders in the country.