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Unrest in Port of Spain

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Unrest in Port of Spain

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PORT OF SPAIN – The peace and silence that East Port of Spain has been experiencing for the past few months was violently broken on Thursday night with the killing of three men and the subsequent attack on the Besson Street Police Station.

For most of the night, gunshots were heard echoing throughout the hills of the East Dry River and Laventille, as heavily armed police officers along with soldiers from the Defence Force patrolled Desperlie Crescent, Laventille Road, Piccadilly Street, and the surrounding communities of East Port of Spain.

Piccadilly Street was cordoned off from vehicular and pedestrian traffic as police officers and soldiers responded to the threat raised against the police station by unknown assailants. Several times throughout the night, reporters who visited the scene had to be cautioned “for their own safety” as gunshots echoed throughout the still night air.

Reporters were also told by police that they will not be allowed to proceed any further as “the area was too hot”.

The entire incident began when an unknown group of heavily armed men reportedly opened fire on the Besson Street Police Station around 10 p.m. on Thursday, shortly after 30-year-old Dillon “Bandy” Skeete was killed.

According to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams during a news briefing yesterday at the Police Administration Building in Port of Spain, Skeete was one of three people who were killed following a shooting incident along Desperlie Crescent, Laventille.

“Last night at about 10 p.m. a group of men were located at Desperlie Crescent, Laventille, when a black Nissan X-trail approached the group and five heavily armed men came out of the vehicle and ordered the men to kneel down.

“As they did so, the group was then fired upon. Five of the men from that group were injured. Three of them fatally. They were all taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital (POSGH), four of them by persons in the area and one by a police patrol which responded.

“At present, two persons are at the POSGH receiving treatment under police guard. The three persons who have died are Dillon Skeete alias “Bandy”, Joel Tash and Tremin Thomas. “The T&T Police Service (TTPS) wants to firstly express condolences to the relatives of the deceased, but we also want to give the public the assurance that we will be doing everything possible to solve this crime, this heinous crime, which would have occurred causing a disturbance to the peace which would have been operating in Laventille for several months now,” Williams said.

The Express has since learnt that the two persons who are at the hospital are Christian Huggins and Atiba Lewis. Both men were said to have been shot multiple times about their bodies and were said to be listed in a serious condition.

When the Express visited Desperlie Crescent yesterday, residents described the killing of the three men as “an execution” and they believed that law enforcement officers were the persons responsible.

“We were all liming here on the block. About nine fellas and a few girls when some time after nine (p.m.) a marked police vehicle pass by. They didn’t harass us so we said okay no scene and carry on. A little while later, another car just like the first one, except it was unmarked, come up the road. The marked police car end up driving down the road and the two vehicles stopped and the drivers chat up with each other, before the marked car drive off.

“Right after the marked police car drive off, the unmarked one drive up on the group, and men jump out, some masked, some not, and scream out, ‘Eh! police! Everybody go up on the wall!’ One of them even put a gun to my chest and said it have no gyal thing here, and he would kill me just the same if I didn’t go on my knees. So I went down. They then shine a light in my face and I remember it was a masked man who tell me that they know me and they would come back for me.

“One of the men then get a phone call and went by Skeete and dry so they shoot him. When I saw him shot I ran for my life, and the men began shooting behind me. Next thing I know they pull up in their vehicle and drive off and when we check five of them bleeding on the ground,” said a woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

She said she was fearful for her life and the lives of her four children because she “knew in her heart” it was law enforcement officers.

Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has denied that police officers were involved in the killing of three people in Laventille.

“The preliminary investigations that we have conducted clearly points to the fact that the persons involved are not law enforcement,” Williams said at a press briefing yesterday.

Williams said investigations will proceed with “an open mind’.

“What we normally do with an investigation, even if we get some early indicators in relation to public perception and suspicion, what we do is approach the situation with an open mind so we don’t limit the investigation from the start. So the Police Service will approach the investigation with an open mind to explore all angles but there are some early indicators, including information that these men were not law enforcement, which we are in fact exploring,” Williams said. (Trinidad Express)