Home security video footage of the June 27 police killing of three men, in the hands of both the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and Professional Standards Bureau (PSB), appears to violently contradict the statements of officers.
Last week, Sunday Newsday published details of the statements of some of the officers involved in the killing of Noel Diamond, Israel Clinton and Joel Jacobs at Juman Drive, Morvant.
Two of the 18 officers on the exercise said they received information that there were armed men travelling in a Nissan Tiida in the Morvant district. Police claimed they were on patrol and intercepted the car but that account also differs from the video footage which showed that three police jeeps drove past the Tiida which pulled to the side. The driver even reversed and one of the occupants, later identified as Jacobs, came out of the rear left side of the car. Police claimed he drew a gun and he was shot repeatedly.
The video footage showed Jacobs with his hands in the air while surrounded by police who had their guns trained on him.
The driver, Clinton, was also seen with both arms in the air while seated in the driver's seat. As Diamond, who was sitting in the back seat, lowered the right rear window, police suddenly opened fire, striking all three men, the video showed.
The statements of the 18 officers all had the same narrative. After stopping the car the men were in, they heard gunshots in the distance and some officers turned their attention to that. The others focused on the car the trio were in. Six men fired at one man and all three were killed.
The killing sparked widespread protests 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, Ornella Greaves, was shot dead. It remains unclear whether she was killed by police or a protester, as each side is blaming the other. The PCA is also investigating this case.
In the videos seen by Sunday Newsday, three different angles showed the officers jump out of three jeeps and head straight to the car.
The statements of the officers said after hearing the gunshots in the distance some officers began directing traffic while others were guiding pedestrians and providing cover for their colleagues. Twelve of the officers said they did not witness the shooting of the three men as they were busy securing the area from other gunshots they heard in the distance.
From one vantage point, the officers all ran out their vehicles after the car was stopped and headed towards the car. The only time they took their attention off it was to tell residents to go back inside their homes. This was before the men were shot.
Only one officer remained facing away from the shooting. He was the driver of the first vehicle who did not flinch throughout the entirety of the shooting. He claimed he sat in the front seat facing forward as some 51 shots were fired at Jacobs. After the shooting, he was summoned to assist to take the men to hospital.
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). The shooting occurred mere hours after police constable Allen Moseley was murdered off the Morvant Old Road. Moseley had only hours earlier graduated to join the GEB.
When the news of the shooting first emerge, police said the men were responsible for Moseley’s death but hours later that narrative changed and the two incidents were no longer connected. Then police later identified one of the dead men as Codi Alves. It turned out they were wrong. Alves miraculously survived an eerily similar police-involved shooting in the same street, eleven years before in which three of his friends were killed and was a potential witness against the police who are before a coroner's court.
Alves has since given a statement to the PCA which has taken an interest in the 2009 case which is scheduled to come up for hearing on October 28, before coroner Kerri-Ann Byer, in the Port of Spain Magistrates Court.
In their statements, the officers claimed that Jacobs re-entered the car around the same time gunshots were heard that caused some of them to focus their attention on it. At this time he pointed a gun at the sergeant who fired at him along with five other officers. The statements from the shooters claimed Jacobs was inside the vehicle lowering the right back window when he pointed the gun and was shot. One officer said Jacobs was coming out of the vehicle with the gun in hand when he was shot.
The video shows Jacobs was shot while outside the vehicle to the left side and he collapsed at the side of the road. Both Diamond and Clinton were dragged out of the car and dumped on the road before their lifeless bodies were thrown on top of each other in a back of a police jeep.
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.
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.