A father whose 17-year-old son died after being shot with a stray bullet to the chest will receive close to $1 million in compensation as a High Court judge has found that the State was liable for the actions of the police officer who accidentally discharged his service pistol at a party in Chaguaramas in 2014.
Ricky Mohammed, as administrator of his son, Ricardo Mohammed’s estate, took the State to court, claiming the actions of the special reserved police constable was negligent.
The younger Mohammed, who worked part-time after school, was at a party at the Military Museum on September 28, 2014, when he was shot.
The teen attended Diego Martin North Secondary and was in form 5.His father testified at the short trial in the Port of Spain High Court, on Tuesday.
In defending the lawsuit, the State argued that SRP constable Clyde Best was not negligent in his actions since, at the time of the incident, he was trying to retrieve his service pistol during a struggle with an irate patron he warned about smoking a marijuana cigarette.
According to the State, Best had emptied the chamber of the pistol when he signed in for extra duty the night before.
Although Best gave a witness statement in the matter in December, in which he said “with certainty that there was no bullet in the chamber when he went on extra duty,” did not show up for the trial at the Port of Spain High Court yesterday.
Best is currently on suspension pending the outcome of investigations into the shooting. A coroner’s inquest was recommended.
Justice Frank Seepersad, in his decision, found there to be a contradiction between the State’s defence and the policeman’s account of what took place, particularly as it related to him saying he cleared the bullet chamber, and also held that police officers had a responsibility of care when in possession of a service pistol.
He said Best did not exercise due care and control of the firearm, and breached his duty which led to Mohammed’s death.
In awarding damages, Seepersad said Mohammed had remarkable potential despite his family’s financial circumstances and showed a commitment to hard work by working after school, taking up welding jobs part-time as well as taking on jobs as a barber; a skill he learned from his father. He was also a leading pannist with the Valley Harps Steel Orchestra.
Seepersad said Mohammed “had extreme potential to live a productive life” and showed the capacity to become a successful citizen and contributor to national development.
He ordered the State to compensate Mohammed’s father a total of $992,500 plus interest . This sum covers $7,500 for funeral expenses; $25,000 for loss of life and $960,000 for future earnings.
The judge agreed to a 60 day stay of execution on the payment of damages and also ordered the State to pay the elder Mohammed’s legal costs.
Mohammed was represented by attorneys Mario Merritt and Karunaa Bisramsingh.