In what police say is a first in this country, a gunman invaded the compound of a public education institution and placed the gun to a student’s head while threatening to shoot him during a tense face-off with officers yesterday. In the end, the man was coerced into dropping his weapon and was arrested. The student hostage, though extremely traumatised, was unharmed.
The gunman was taken to the Maloney Police Station while his estranged girlfriend who is 20 and a student of the school was taken to the Malabar Police Station where she gave investigators a statement. The 17-year-old student hostage was taken to hospital for treatment.
The woman told police that she had recently ended a relationship with the 32-year-old suspect who followed her as she left her Arima home and entered the maxi taxi that she boarded, all the while accusing her of being unfaithful and also of giving him a disease. The woman said she left the maxi taxi and boarded another, eventually making her way to the MIC Institute of Technology’s O’Meara compound.
The man arrived later at the school and a heated argument took place as he threatened to shoot her. The police were contacted and a shoot-out ensued between the suspect and officers. The man later grabbed the 17-year-old student and a stand-off ensued. The suspect kept his gun to the student’s head, using the teen’s body as a shield from the officers.
A video recording showing the hostage drama was later uploaded to social media. In the video, the suspect shouts obscenities at the officers all the while crouching behind the teen and keeping the gun to his head.
“Police come and I take a student hostage, ok? I have a gun too and is only allyuh could save him (the student) because if police step bad, I will shoot this one here,” the man shouts. “I will shoot him,” he reiterates as a voice is heard in the video telling him to cool down.
“Aye! Tell them police to move! I am seeing two police over there,” the suspects then shouts. The video then ends. While this was taking place, other students began running in different directions to seek a hiding place away from the gunman. Police officers led by Cpl De Leon of the Arima Police Station later talked the suspect into dropping the pistol and surrendering.
Police said the pistol contained three rounds of nine-millimetre ammunition and was unlicensed. The man’s ex-girlfriend who was sobbing in an office, was taken in another police vehicle to the Malabar police station where she gave a statement and was receiving counselling up to press time.
Snr Supt Daniel along with Supt David, ASP Edwards, Inspector Birch and others visited the school and commended Cpl De Leon and other officers for ensuring no bloodbath took place. Students said when they saw the suspect grab the teenager, many ran and hid in classrooms and offices.
“It is something you would see on American news, where some crazy person invades a school and there is mass murder. I never thought this would happen in little Trinidad and Tobago. This is the first time, I witnessed something like this. It was scary,” said a student who asked not to be identified. Police sources said they could not recall a similar incident taking place locally and as such officers who responded had to use common-sense in speaking with the suspect as they are not trained in hostage negotiations. A report on the incident is expected to be sent to Education Minister Anthony Garcia. ASP Mervyn Edwards is investigating.
A release from the MIT Institute of Technology yesterday said staff is assisting police in their investigations. Calling the incident an “isolated one”, the school said that just after 9 am, staff alerted officers of the La Horquetta, San Raphael, Arima and Pinto Road police stations when the armed intruder was seen arguing with the female trainee outside the compound.
The MIC, the release stated, has called a meeting for Thursday to discuss the incident with parents whose children attend the O’Meara Technology Centre, while the Employee Assistance Programme remains in effect for all employees and Trainees.