The Police Complaints Authority has made damning findings against police officers of the Western Division involved in the fatal shooting of one of their colleagues and a plot to mislead the acting Commissioner of Police.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the PCA concluded that members of the police “abused their power and deliberately mislead the acting Commissioner of Police (CoP). This incident is one of the clearest examples of abuse of police power that the PCA has investigated to date.”
It said the evidence revealed that police officers “shot at an unarmed civilian and, unfortunately, PC Clarence Gilkes became an unintended target.”
Police initially claimed 12 officers of the Western Division Task Force responded to a report of a man armed with high-powered guns at Rich Plain, Diego Martin, on April 22.
They reported they confronted one of the men, Jhelano Romney, on the steps leading to a hilly area and were shot at, in the course of which Romney had killed Gilkes, 44.
As a result, acting CoP McDonald Jacob, who arrived at the crime scene hours after the incident, said criminals had declared war on the police, and over 100 officers, soldiers and special units were deployed in the hills of Diego Martin, Carenage and other areas to capture Romney, then declared the country’s most wanted man.
Romney managed to evade capture and boarded a vessel to Venezuela. He only returned and surrendered to the PCA after an autopsy revealed that the bullet which hit Gilkes in the back of the head came from a police gun.
Homicide detectives investigating the case consulted Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC, at the end of April, and after reviewing the evidence, the DPP instructed the police to release Romney.
Romney’s attorney Criston Williams said then the DPP would have had to give permission for charges of murder to be laid against him.
“Where allegations were made against him by the police service, the DPP has to give permission before he could be charged for murder. The police officers would have conducted their investigation and presented that information and evidence to the DPP for his analysis as he considers whether to proffer a charge of murder or not.
“The DPP said no, no charges should be laid, so therefore he was released.”
Jacob was said to have been embarrassed after being misled by the task force officers and senior Western Division officers.
The head of the division, Snr Supt Kelvern Thompson, was sent on leave. Thompson claimed at Gilkes’ funeral that the injured officer was a hero, as he managed to return fire after he was shot. The evidence uncovered by the PCA does not support that account.
Jacob suspended three officers on May 6 after getting the ballistics report on the killing.
The PCA said on Thursday, “The scientific evidence gathered by the PCA clearly demonstrates PC Gilkes was fatally shot by one of his fellow officers. However, before this evidence became apparent, the police officers informed the acting. CoP that an unarmed civilian would have shot PC Gilkes, which led to his death, and caused the police service to launch a manhunt in order to ‘deal with the persons responsible for this act.'” The PCA has made recommendations to both the office of the DPP and the acting CoP.
Romney has given a detailed statement to the police and the PCA about the events which took place that day.