51 shots, 3 dead

Crime scene investigators gather evidence after a police shooting involving the occupants of a Nissan Tiida, at Juman Drive, Morvant, on June 27. Noel Diamond, Israel Clinton and Joel Jacob died in the incident. 
FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB -
Crime scene investigators gather evidence after a police shooting involving the occupants of a Nissan Tiida, at Juman Drive, Morvant, on June 27. Noel Diamond, Israel Clinton and Joel Jacob died in the incident. FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB -

WHO killed Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton?

This question remains unanswered after 18 police officers each gave statements about the shooting deaths of the two friends and Joel Jacob
on June 27 at Juman Drive, Morvant.

Jacobs was celebrating his birthday on the same day he died.

The officers were part of an exercise which ended in the deaths of the three men. They gave statements to their superiors saying only Jacobs was armed, and all the officers who fired targeted him.

On that day, at about 2.15 pm, four police vehicles entered Juman Drive, Morvant looking for – depending on which statement you read – a brown or gold Nissan Tiida occupied by men armed with guns.

Six of the officers, who said they opened fire on Jacobs, fired at least 51 times. All, but one recalled how many shots he fired.

The exercise was led by a sergeant and included two corporals, two acting corporals and 13 constables. They were part of the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).

Two officers said they received information from an informant at the Morvant Police Station earlier that day.

The statements were recorded as early as June 29 – two days after the incident – and as late as July 13 – 16 days after. They form part of the Police Complaints Authority’s investigation into the incident.

All the statements had a similar narrative. While searching for the car, the officers saw it heading in the opposite direction from them.

They made the driver, Clinton, stop and Jacob got out with his hands in the air.

The officers said they heard gunshots in the distance, Jacob got back into the car, pointed a gun at the sergeant and was shot.

None of the 18 said how Diamond and Clinton ended up dead, only that they were later found “breathing heavily.”

The shooters’ account

The first account of the shooting came from the sergeant, who claimed Jacob pointed the gun at him. He said Jacob got out of the car with his hands raised and gunshots were heard in the distance. Jacob, he said, got back into the car and shouted to Clinton “Drive! Drive!”

He said while shouting, Jacob lowered the back right window and pointed a gun, which he picked up off the floor of the car, at the sergeant.

The sergeant shouted “Gun! Gun!” and started shooting.

Priscilla Brooks hugs her son Noel Diamond during his funeral at Janel Funeral Chapel, San Juan on July 6. Diamond, Israel Clinton and Joel Diamond were killed in a police shooting in Morvant on June 27.
- ROGER JACOB

“After the explosions I observed the other two occupants of the vehicle slumped on the seats of the Tiida motorcar. With the assistance of some of the officers the men, who I saw were breathing heavily, were placed in police vehicles and conveyed to hospital.”

The sergeant said he fired 19 times with his rifle.

Another policeman who fired at the men, a constable, who said he was at the back of the car during the shooting, admitted to firing four times at Jacob with his shotgun after he heard the sergeant shout, “Gun! Gun!”

He said after Jacob got out of the car with his hands up he heard gunshots in the distance and walked towards them, but returned and positioned himself behind the car and saw Jacob get back in. He said he saw Jacob getting out a second time while pointing the gun at the sergeant.

Fearing for his life and that of his colleagues, he said, he opened fire.

A third policeman who shot at Jacob said, “I discharged my service firearm which contained a magazine of 30 rounds of 5.56 ammunition in the direction of the man. Other loud explosions were heard and after the explosions ceased the vehicle began to roll forward with the engine racing.”

This
constable said he fired 14 times at Jacob. He too did not admit to shooting at Clinton or Diamond, and, like his colleagues, said he
did not see who shot the two men.

A fourth officer, who fired ten shots at Jacob said: “I became fearful for my life and the life of other officers and discharged my firearm in the direction of the man to the defence of myself and others. I also heard other loud explosions in my immediate surroundings and observed the driver and the passenger slumped on the seats of the said motor vehicle.”

The fourth constable, who said he saw Jacob pointing a gun at the sergeant through the back window of the car, said he fired four times. He had a handgun, his statement read.

The final shooter did not say how many times he fired at Jacob. He said he was to the left back door of the Tiida when he heard the gunshots in the distance and looked away to see where they were coming from. At that time Jacob was outside the car.

“I turned to see where the explosions were coming from when I heard one of the officers shouting which quickly drew my attention towards the Tiida where I observed the man with the black jersey, who was earlier outside of the vehicle with his hand in the air, in the vehicle pointing a firearm in his right hand at the officers. Simultaneously I heard loud explosions and I discharged my rifle in the direction of the man who fell to the ground.”

We heard but did not see

The other 12 officers each said they were away from the Tiida during the shooting. They too heard the gunshots in the distance and focused all their attention on that. Some directed traffic while others directed pedestrians.

After hearing the gunshots away from where the car was stopped, they heard the gunshots which killed the three men. None of them said they saw Jacob with a gun in his hand and only after the shooting stopped some were told to take the wounded men to hospital.

One constable reported: “The man with the dark-coloured jersey re-entered the brown Tiida. I then heard two distinct voices, one after the other, shout ‘Drive! Drive!’ and ‘Gun! Gun!’ I heard a series of loud explosions. I then saw the two occupants slump in their seats and the rear seat occupant stumbling out the said motor vehicle during which other explosions were heard.”

Another said he maintained his area of responsibility by providing perimeter security after the first gunshots were heard, and only moved after the three men were shot and had to be taken to hospital.

Update on investigations

The PCA’s probe is still ongoing. Investigators have video footage and obtained evidence from key witnesses and the officers involved, as well as forensic reports on the autopsies of the victims, ballistic reports and other scientific evidence.

In a media release the day after the killings, the PCA said once its investigation is completed it will assess whether there is sufficient evidence to support a recommendation for prosecution and/or disciplinary proceedings.

Mourners carry the body of Joel Jacob to the San Juan Cemetery, after a funeral at St John the Baptist RC Church, San Juan on July 3. Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton were killed in a police shooting in Morvant on June 27. FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB -

In July the PCA, the day after Police Commissioner Gary Griffith put seven of the officers on administrative duty and 11 on desk duties, recommended that all 18 officers should be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

About the shooting

Video footage from a home security camera appeared to show the police driving past the Tiida, which had pulled to the side of the road.

Several officers appear to run to the car with guns pointed at the occupants.

Jacob is seen emerging from the left back seat with his hands in the air, and Clinton is also seen with hands in the air. Diamond was the front-seat passenger, according to the police statements.

The footage appears to show the back right window being lowered before police opened fire, killing all three men. One officer was seen retrieving what appeared to be spent shells from the road, while another reversed the Tiida back into the view of the camera after it rolled forward during the shooting.

The footage was shared on social media hours after and sparked widespread protest over three days. There were violent confrontations between protesters and police in Port of Spain and several other areas, including Beetham Gardens, where a pregnant mother of five was shot dead. It remains unclear whether she was killed by police or a protester, as each side is blaming the other.

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