The robbery of a KFC delivery driver on Sunday night ended in the deaths of three of four suspects in a shoot out with the police in Mayaro on Sunday night. This incident took the number of people killed by police for the year to nine.
One of the dead suspects had not been identified up to late yesterday. The other two were identified as 19-year-old Zackery “Cori” Gilbert and Antonio “Matta” St Rose, both of Mayaro.
A relative of one of the men claimed the police used excessive force.
Initial police reports stated that shortly before 9 pm, the 41-year-old KFC delivery driver went to Mischier Road to drop off an order. When he got there he was approached by a man who claimed to be the customer.
Three other men armed with guns, cutlasses and knives then approached and announced a robbery. They robbed him of an undisclosed amount of cash, a cellphone and the KFC meal. The four suspects then ran off towards the beach.
The police responded and took up strategic positions at the scene. Two of the officers walked along the beach front and were confronted by the suspects who opened fire at the officers and began running to the side of an abandoned beach house.
The officers returned fire hitting three of the men who fell to the ground. The fourth suspect climbed over a wall and escaped.
The suspects died at the scene. Autopsies will be done at the Forensic Science Centre in St James.
A revolver with one live round and spent casings was recovered at the scene.
However, Gilbert’s cousin, Michelle Mohammed, is challenging the police account of what took place. She said relatives went to the scene and spoke with an eyewitness who claimed the men were unarmed when the police shot them.
“She said the police jam them to the wall and them (police) had them in their hands. What we upset about is that they could ah hold them and carry them in custody. They did not have to shoot down the children like dogs. This shock we right now,” she said.
Mohammed said Gilbert graduated from Mayaro Secondary School last year and wanted to become a soldier. He had been raised by his grandmother since he was six-years-old following the death of his mother. She said he did not have a criminal record and as far as she knew was not involved in criminal activity.
“I feel he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cori never rob nobody,” she said.
A relative of St Rose, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted that he had a conviction for robbery and had recently been released from prison after serving a three-year term.
“To be honest at home you will see a child, he will not even mash an ants, he would not even answer you back but when he step out of the box is a different person outside there. You become a gangster, an outlaw.
“I don’t know if it is something he was trying to prove to his friends. I can’t even blame anybody to say he follow friends because he is a big man, so the choices you make you have to live with. I did not want this to happen, I did not want it to end this way but he make a choice,” she said.
She said St Rose’s parents died when he was young and he was employed as a janitor at a guest house.
However, a friend who also requested anonymity, said St Rose “give up on life since his parents died.” He said St Rose was at a wake on Sunday night and then went to Gilbert’s home.
“We hear the loud gunshots but we did not expect was them,” he said.
As far as he knew Gilbert was not involved in any criminal activity.
“Cori grandmother always use to speak to him about late nights and coming in and friends. The grandmother always there with him but you know teenagers these days they does hear who they want to hear,” he said.
Residents expressed shock at the incident but said they were pleased at the police response.
“The crime situation real terrible right now and with these youth and them not going out and work and just looking to rob people it real sad,” said fruit vendor Joy Parasram.
“Before you could walk the street anytime, any hour, nothing, now it have time during the day you can’t walk because it not safe.”
Parasram called for more police patrols in Mayaro and environs.
Fish vendor Michael “Laggar” Maharaj said he does not feel safe plying his trade.
“Just the other day it have a fast service there 4 o’clock in the morning they rob people there and then anywhere you go is problems,” he said.
Maharaj described the police response to the robbery as “top of the line” but said the problem is that after offenders are arrested and taken before the courts they get bail.
“The police working in vain. That sad. I feel sorry for the police. God bless the police,” he said.
According to statistics from the Police Complaints Authority (ACP) and the T&T Police Service there were five incidents in which nine people were killed this month. PCA data shows that between October 2021 and last September there were 31 incidents of fatal shootings with 39 fatalities.