THE relatives of Rochyon King Ashterman, 19, and 29-year-old Kristan Kerry Serries believe it was a case of mistaken identity which led to their deaths in an alleged exchange of gunfire with police on Friday night in La Canoa, Santa Cruz.
Speaking with reporters yesterday, relatives said they believed police marked the car – a white Honda City–, thinking it belonged to a criminal and not knowing Serries had recently bought it.
They do not believe the two victims – one a mother of three with scoliosis, the other a teenage graphic artist – shot at police.
“That car, I think the root of the problem is that car,” said Serries’ mother, who did not wish to be named. “They shoot up the car thinking it was someone else in it.”
Serries’ mother told reporters, Serries had bought the car just a week ago and it was the first time she had ever ventured out of her home town of Diego Martin with it. She said her daughter bought the car through an online sales page on social media, on a work-to-own basis. She said her daughter paid down $40,000 on the car and was expected to pay $3,600 a month for three years.
The mother said she felt the transaction was suspicious because of the seller’s behaviour.
“My daughter wanted a car. I told her okay, you have the children to drop to school and so on, so I gave her $40,000. She paid Neal and Massy $10,000 to hold a vehicle for her.
“Then she decided to go to the page. Whatever the price was for the car I could not remember, but she did not have that kind of money. “The man (who runs the online business) does not know my daughter. She just called and said she was interested in the car and he dropped the price by $10,000. Massy told her it would take ten working days for them to release the money, so she did not have money to pay the insurance.
“He went and paid the insurance, which was $10,000. Who does that?”
The mother explained that Serries was not a very experienced driver, and since she had just got the car and was now learning the road, she would ask other people to drive the car for her.
That was what happened, said relatives, when Serries met Ashterman at a lime in La Canoa. Other people who had been there told relatives Serries had asked for someone to drive the car for her to get wings at a nearby shop. Ashterman, who was saving for his own car, offered to help.
“That is the kind of thing that he would do,” said Ashterman’s mother. “I used to call him ‘driving Jesus.’”
On their way to buy the wings, they were intercepted by SORT officers. According to a release from the Commissioner of Police, the officers got out of their vehicle and were shot at by the occupants, wounding one officer in the leg. Police shot back, fatally wounding Serries and Ashterman.
Nearby residents told the victim’s relatives that when the car was intercepted, they were ordered to put their hands out of the car, which they did, and the police shot up the car anyway.
Investigators say no gun was found in the car and only a magazine was found near an abandoned car at the scene of the shooting.
Relatives of both Ashterman and Serries dismissed claims that either one had shot at police. Relatives described them both as quiet and mild-mannered people, both of small stature.
Serries was the CEO of the KSP baby and toy store, an online clothing and variety store. Ashterman was a graphic artist who started learning his trade at 13. Relatives said he worked at a store in Port of Spain part-time as a teenager, and encouraged his friends to do the same. More recently, he worked as a graphic artist at a small company but was trying to get another job in the same field.
“My son is small. He cant even take a good one shot,” said Ashterman’s mother.
“My daughter has a spinal injury where her back supported by steel,” Serries’ mother said. “She can’t lift anything heavy. She had a scoliosis problem and her back was at a 65-degree angle. Now I don’t know how heavy a gun is, but I can tell you it’s unlikely she was holding any gun.”
Relatives of both victims said they did not expect to get justice for the shooting, calling the effort a waste of time.
Ashterman’s relatives are still deciding whether or not to approach the Police Complaints Authority to bring forward whatever information they have. Relatives of both families expressed disappointment over the way the incident was handled by police.
“We are not saying the commissioner isn’t doing his job, but you see this case, they were very wrong with this case,” one relative of Ashterman said.
The autopsy expected to be done on Serries was postponed to today. Relatives said the body arrived at the Forensic Science Centre in St James late, and the autopsy could not be done before the day’s end. Ashterman’s autopsy confirmed he was shot in the collar, hand, jaw and other parts of the upper body.