8 charged with murder in 2020 Morvant triple-killing

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FILE PHOTO: Investigators conduct a re-enactment of the police-involved killing of Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Moses Clinton at Juman Drive, Second Caledonia Morvant on July 30, 2021. The killings happened almost a year earlier on June 27, 2020. – Marvin Hamilton

EIGHT POLICE officers are to be charged with three offences of murder for the killing of three men at Second Caledonia, Morvant in 2020.

Police, last night, received instructions from Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC to charge a sergeant and seven constables who fired on Joel Jacob, 38, Noel Diamond, 46, and Israel Moses Clinton, 27, while they were unarmed and at least two of them had their hands in the air.

The officers were arrested between last Thursday and Friday and questioned over the weekend under caution by a hand-picked team of investigators led by Supt Wayne Abbott.

The charges is the culmination of one of the most in-depth investigations into police killings in the history of the country and the investigative team received considerable support from the Police Complaints Authority who had also found the officers were culpable of murder. Another ten officers are still under investigation for possible offences of misbehaviour in public office, conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and other offences.

One of the eight officers, a constable, co-operated with investigators and gave a statement in the matter while the other reportedly remained silent when questioned by investigators.

On Sunday, acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob said during a radio interview that he expected the investigators to approach the DPP by the end of this week for guidance.

But investigators said they risked keeping the officers beyond the 48 hours in detention without charges and would have had to release them if they were not charged with any offence by Monday.

Seven of the shooters had been sent on administrative leave in July 2020 after the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), which did a parallel probe, made a recommendation to then commissioner of police Gary Griffith.

The parents of Jacob, Sterling and Carol, in an interview on Friday, said their faith in the police and the justice system have been restored after the officers were arrested.

The tragic incident, Sterling said, had brought the oppressed community of Second Caledonia together in love, unity and harmony. He also praised the diligence and professionalism of the task force led by Abbott and the DPP for ensuring that justice prevails.

Contacted for comment on Monday night one of attorneys representing six of the officers, Ulric Skerritt, confirmed last night that the eight officers are to be charged with murder.

“I am sure my clients will face the court and be exonerated. They only did their duties,” he said in a brief comment on Monday night.

He and a team of attorney, led by Israel Khan SC, are representing seven of the eight officers.

He had complained on Friday that the officers were being treated like “common criminals” and four of them were placed in cells upon arrest.

Police investigators got a breakthrough in the case after one of the officers, who left the country on a one-way ticket to the United States four months ago, agreed to return. A previous operation to arrest the officers had to be called off after they learned that the officer had travelled out of the country.

On June 27, 2020, 18 officers assigned to the Guard and Emergency Branch and the Inter-Agency Task Force, intercepted a gold-coloured Nissan Tiida hatchback near the Auto Guru building, Juman Drive, Second Caledonia.

Jacob who was in the back seat with his childhood friend, Diamond, emerged with his hands in the air. The driver, Clinton, also had his hand above the steering wheel as officers surrounded the car, pointed the automatic weapons.

The shooting incident was captured on CCTV cameras and shared on social media mere hours after the incident.

The killing of the three men sparked three days of violent protests in the capital city and other parts of the country and the Prime Minister appointed a committee to find out the root causes of the protests.

Jacob was celebrating his birthday with Diamond, who lives nearby, when he stepped out of his house and took a drop from Clinton to go and buy a bottle of rum at a village shop. The trio had not travelled more than 20 feet before they were stopped by armed officers who alighted from four jeeps.

The men were killed less than 24 hours after a Guard and Emergency Branch officer PC Allen Mosely was shot dead in Morvant but they were later cleared of being involved in that incident.

Police had initially claimed that one of the men who was killed was a witness in a unrelated triple police killing which took place in 2009 but that too turned out to be untrue. The inquest into that matter is yet to begin in the Port of Spain Magistrate’s Court.

After the men were shot, police bundled their bodies in the back of a jeep and sped off while other officers pointed their weapons at residents who were brave enough to peep though their windows, residents said.

A mural has been painted on the wall of the Auto Guru building in remembrance of the three men whose deaths have brought the fragmented community of Second Caledonia closer.

The arrest of the officers come after public disquiet over the police killings of three young men on Independence Square, Port of Spain on July 2 and a fourth man, Tristan “Ratty” Springer, 24, at Second Caledonia that same day. Those killings also sparked violent protests on July 4, as protesters blocked the Beetham Highway, Priority Bus Route, parts of East Port of Spain and Lady Young Road, Morvant.

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