Relatives of Joel Harracksingh want to know what really happened to him, after a man purporting to be a police officer apologised to Harracksingh’s mother, saying they intercepted the wrong car.
Harracksingh, 25, from Oxford Street, Port of Spain, was reportedly shot dead by police after an alleged car chase which started around the Queen’s Park Savannah and ended in St Ann's on Sunday.
Harracksingh’s sister, who did not wish to be named, told Newsday that from information the family received, they believe he was not armed when the police shot him.
She added that doctors managed to stabilise him when he was first taken to hospital, but he still died shortly after.
“While my brother was upstairs in surgery, the doctors said he was going to be fine. A 'police officer' said it was all a mistake and they shot at the wrong car. He said they saw people looking like suspects and they didn’t mean to shoot him. They told my mother sorry.”
The sister admitted that she did not get the name of the police officer, and he did not have his badge or his badge number displayed.
“The doctors went to arrange to get blood for him. He said he wanted to talk to our mother, but police went in first.
"The next thing I know, we are hearing that he is dead.
"I just don’t understand what is going on, I just want clarity and justice for my brother.”
A police report said at about 5 pm on Sunday, Western Division police on patrol were told of a robbery in progress at Broome Street, La Puerta Avenue, Diego Martin, where two men were stealing a black Honda CRV at gunpoint.
Police intercepted them at the Queen’s Park Savannah, and chased the CRV up St Ann’s Avenue, past St Ann’s RC Church.
A poster on Facebook reported being in church at the time and hearing gunshots and numerous police vehicles speeding up the road, which is a dead end.
The driver allegedly aimed a gun at the police and they shot at him, in accordance with the police use-of-force policy, hitting Harracksingh. He was then taken to hospital.
A Glock pistol with six rounds of 9mm ammunition was found at the scene.
A second man escaped into nearby bushes. He remains at large.
Relatives told Newsday Harracksingh was on the phone with someone, who heard him surrendering to the police and then screaming after being shot.
Relatives also referred to a video circulating on social media which is said to have captured a part of the incident. They believe the video is evidence Harracksingh was not armed.
In the video, a white van with blue and yellow stripes is seen driving along St Ann’s Avenue, then stops outside the frame. Then a man in all black is seen running along the pavement on the far side of the road. Two armed uniformed men are then seen chasing and shooting at him. They run out of view of the camera and two more shots are heard. Then one of the uniformed men isseen running back into view and across the screen.
Relatives admitted Harracksingh had a chequered past, but said he had turned over a new leaf and was doing everything he could to take care of his four-year-old son.
“He wasn’t perfect. Everyone has their faults. But he was trying to be a better person.
"He got locked up for snatching a lady’s chain when he was 19. He stayed in jail for six months and they let him out for good behaviour.
“I am not saying that he didn’t do his stupidnesss, but he was trying. Whatever he did, they could have just locked him up.”
Relatives said they are still trying to find a way to tell his son that Harracksingh is dead.
The sister said, “He doesn’t understand what is going on. He just wants to see his daddy. We can’t tell him anything except, 'Daddy won’t be coming back again.'
“He was doing better. He was staying out of trouble and taking care of his son, and this comes and happens. I never lost anyone like this. To lose my brother this way is really hard. We are just trying to come to terms with it.”
In a letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Newsday, Linus F Didier commended the police for their quick action in returning the vehicle. Didier said he got a terrifying phone call from his son, who said his car had just been stolen at gunpoint.
“Two youngsters, one with a gun, saw an opportunity to cause distress – and took it. Unfortunately for them they did not anticipate the instantaneous response by officers of the Four Roads Police Station and the Western Division Task Force...
“I have nothing but high praise for the extremely professional approach of the police at the station. Police officers placed their lives on the line to recover a stolen vehicle. Several of them are married and probably have children as well.
Didier said he could now understand CoP Gary Griffith’s "rhetoric about 'cockroaches,'” Didier said.
There have been 55 police-involved killings for 2020 so far.