Jensen La Vende
THE three people killed by police on Saturday were all shot from behind, their autopsies revealed.
At the scene of the incident at the corner of Chacon Street and Independence Square, Port of Spain on Thursday, relatives of those killed showed copies of their death certificates.
Fabien Richards, 21, and 17-year-olds Leonardo Niko Williams and Isaiah Roberts were fired upon by police who received a report about a stolen car.
Richards, Williams, Roberts and three others were chased from Diego Martin to Port of Spain where they were killed. After their car was forced to stop, police claimed there was shootout resulting in three dying.
Two survivors were arrested, and a 15-year-old boy who was shot was taken to hospital. The wounded boy was shot in the right arm and grazed on the abdomen. They were all released from police custody.
The autopsy reports said Williams died from multiple gunshots wounds to the back, right buttocks and forearm. Roberts died of multiple gunshots to the back of the head and right lower back. Richards died of multiple gunshot wounds to the back of the head, neck and upper limbs.
Police claimed a Smith and Wesson pistol was found in the car.
The killings caused massive protests on Monday with Sea Lots residents blocking off the east- and west-bound lanes of the Beetham Highway as part of several protests in and around Port of Spain. Parts of the Priority Bus Route and Nelson and Duncan streets were also blocked with debris which was set on fire. The protest lasted about five hours.
Asked about the findings of the autopsies and the effect it may have on the investigation, lead investigator Snr Supt Brandon John said there is none, as the investigation is on going.
“This does not change the investigation, it will be an unbiased one. The autopsies does not show the whole picture, it shows part.”
After the protests, acting Police Commissioner Mc Donald Jacob said the shooting was recorded via CCTV cameras, but the footage would not be made public at this time.
Asked about this, John said his team received the videos but had not yet reviewed them up to Thursday evening.
Relatives: Those boys were innocent
After being consoled at the scene, Nicole Richards said the findings by pathologist Dr Somu Sekhar Gajula at the Forensic Science Centre contradict the police’s version of how her son Fabien died..
“They were children… These children are innocent! These children are babies!”
She said Fabien was an entrepreneur who, with the help of his sister, bought and sold clothing, watches and other accessories. She said he left home on Friday to attend a birthday party, his first real outing since the pandemic.
Roberts’ grandmother Michelle John said he was supposed to travel to the US on Thursday to join his mother. She too said Roberts was a budding businessman who started a parlour at the family’s Sandy Trace, St Barb’s Road, Laventille home.
John said Roberts was a self-taught baker and cook who baked the best tasting corn pie she ever had.
Richards interjected: “The most the police would have found on them was their money and their phone. Anything illegal you won’t find it on them. I can put my head on a block and say nothing illegal was found in that car.”
Williams’ mother Lucky Joseph said her son had enrolled in Civilian Conservation Corps and had applied for his identification card. He too was part of his friends’ business ventures, helping when he could. She said he was raised right, and if he saw someone smoking or drinking he would go the opposite way.
All three women said they have already filed a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
Attorney to write CoP and PCA
The wounded teen’s attorney Om Lalla said the child was supposed to visit the scene and explain certain things to him, but the very thought of returning to where his friends were killed was too much for him.
“He was too traumatised to return to that scene after witnessing the deaths of his friends, and rightly so.
“I will be writing to both the Commissioner of Police and the PCA on this matter. My client has no pending matters or previous convictions, and I will want to put in writing some concerns with regards to this investigation.”
Lalla’s client and the other two survivors are yet to be charged with any offence arising out of Saturday’s incident.
John, when asked about this anomaly, said there are those ignorant of how investigations work who will question the release of the three. He added that not only is the investigation not completed, at any time after police can re-arrest any or all of the survivors for further questions or even charges.
The killing of the three on Saturday was one of two police-involved killings along with several murders beginning Friday into Saturday.
PM: Protesters’ response could have been better
At a post-Cabinet media conference on Thursday, the Prime Minister said the response by protesters is below the standard of what he knows the country to have.
“Those kind of disturbances, we’re better than that. There are things that happen that we expect not to happen, that we hope will not happen, and circumstances don’t develop when these things happen.
“There is an investigation taking place and I would not want to comment too widely on it, but I would rather if that did not happen. We await the investigation, and those investigations will tell us the extent to which it was an action that was avoidable, reasonable, illegal or legal.”
Rowley said that was how a civilised society handled such things, and he knows “emotions are high.
“The loss of life, the loss of friends, the loss of family, the loss of community members, it brings pain. People feel that pain but we need to not create more pain for the wider society. Let us handle it in a civilised way, get to the bottom of it.”
Protesters said the only reason they continue to hold the country to ransom through protests was because it is the only way those in authority hear them.
On Tuesday, four police officers assigned to the Guard and Emergency Branch were placed on clerical duties as the investigation into the triple killings continue.
Both protesters and relatives say they will not wait two or more years for justice, referencing another triple police killing that took place in Morvant in 2020. That matter is still under investigation.