Police Commissioner Gary Griffith yesterday presented a graphic which suggested 14-year-old Naomi Nelson may have been killed by a bullet to the head from an illegal gun fired by Carenage residents and not the police.
However, he refused to be pressed into confirming what the graphic seemed to be suggesting, saying he would leave it up to the public to decide.
Speaking at the weekly media briefing at the Police Administration Building in Port-of-Spain, Griffith said it was not his officers that drew first blood before showing the media a screen that depicted an image showing the position of officers and alleged gang members at the shooting scene last Friday night at Big Yard, Carenage.
He explained that the officers entered the area from the Western Main Road and headed north in their unmarked vehicle when they were allegedly fired upon by the alleged gang members on the block, who were facing south. Using the image to explain further, he said the teen was behind the police vehicle when the shooting started, suggesting she would have been behind the officers and facing the alleged gang members who were shooting at the police.
“A young lady was killed because of this firefight…one shot (referring to a newspaper article)…everyone saw it fit to say that the police was the one fired the shot and killed the young lady—they (referring to the alleged gang members) fired towards the police vehicle and what was behind the police vehicle was the young lady—get the facts first before perception becomes a reality,” Griffith said.
When asked if any illegal firearms were recovered from the scene, he said he was yet to verify but added that he believed two illegal guns were recovered, including the one used in shooting one of the officers, along with the spent shells.
Explaining his theory for why the shootout occurred, Griffith said it had become the “norm” for certain gang members to feel that a certain area, turf or community belongs to them, adding there were situations where unmarked police vehicles entered certain areas and gangsters would fire shots at them or even vehicles they did not recognise.
“Just a few days ago a woman police officer was driving and she went into an area and a notorious gang leader was there and they were not aware of that vehicle and they started firing shots at her…that is what is happening in this country,” Griffith said.
“So the concern that people are having with police officers being on patrols in unmarked vehicles, well, those persons who are concerned should know that I intend to put 50 more of these unmarked vehicles and flood these areas, because no area, no street, no community and no block belongs to any criminal element and that is what has happened in Big Yard in Carenage with these individuals…they saw an unmarked vehicle and they decided to fire.”
He also expressed concern no one cared that one of his officers was shot in the chest while on duty.
“No one mentioned the fact that a police officer was shot and his life saved because he had on a bulletproof vest and he would have fired the shot to save his life after the fact that he was shot at…we did not draw first blood.”
An autopsy done on Tuesday at the Forensic Science Centre found that Nelson was shot in the back of the head with the bullet exiting to the front.
Nelson’s relatives strongly believe she was hit by a bullet of a police officer’s gun but ballistic testing, which is now pending, will eventually determine whose bullet the gun was fired from.
Nelson, who attended the Mucurapo West Secondary School and was a member of the Western Division Police Youth Club, was killed along with Keron Eve, 30 and Kareem Roberts, 27. Christian Eve, 31 and Ronaldo Sydney, 21, who is said to be the Godson of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, were also wounded in the shooting. Sydney has a bullet lodged in the abdomen that is said to be moving closer to the spine.
Asked about the allegations of rogue officers’ involvement in Friday’s shooting, Griffith said it was easy for people to demonise the police service and called on people with information to “bring it.”
“People only talk about rogue elements in the Police Service and they are not speaking about politicians, media and the business community. They always focus on the police service…those officers go out every day and put their lives on the line… we are doing everything possible to weed out the rogue elements and it shows a degree of transparency and accountability. Bring it to our attention if you have and bring the evidence and we will deal with it.”