The country’s laws have failed to protect 16-year-old Tamika Griffith, who was fatally shot in the head with an illegal gun left in the possession of a teenaged male relative, psychiatrist and Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh said on Saturday.
The relative, also 16, and a form four student, told police he was paid $150 a week to keep the weapon for one of his relatives.
Deyalsingh said Government has to do more to stop illegal guns from entering the country and getting into the hands of curious children, or else there will be many more fatalities like Griffith.
He said proper parenting and empowering children about their rights must take centre stage because adults are taking advantage of vulnerable children to perform criminal acts with all kinds of inducements.
“Persons are using children, and also mentally challenged persons, to do their drug trade or hide illegal things for them. The level of poverty in some homes and the challenge of parents to earn a dollar while they leave their children unsupervised in this covid time is also causing children to fall prey to these kinds of inducements,” he said.
Deyalsingh said it does not stop with inducements for weapons, but drugs and sexual favours. He was commenting on last Tuesday’s death of Griffith, a form four student of Princes Town West Secondary School. Griffith died while she was undergoing emergency surgery at San Fernando General Hospital. An autopsy performed on her body, on Friday, confirmed her death was caused by a gunshot injury to the face.
Initial reports indicate that Griffith, who lives at Princes Town, was at the home of a relative in Claxton Bay to access online classes when the shooting incident occurred.
It is believed that around 1 pm, the male relative was showing her a gun left in his possession for safe keeping. He told the police he tried to take it away from her when it discharged and a bullet struck her on the face.
He said it was accidental, but police sources say the fact that the Homicide Division has taken over the case and detained the schoolboy, indicates that there is a suspicion of murder.
While Griffith lay on the couch bleeding, the schoolboy reportedly called the gun’s owner who arrived and took away the weapon.
It was not until 2.50 pm, that the police were contacted, arrived at the scene some ten minutes later, and took Griffith to the hospital where she died around 4.10 pm.
There is no report of any adults being at the Claxton Bay home at the time the incident occurred. A spent 9mm shell was recovered at the scene.
Police executed a warrant at the home of the alleged gun owner, but he, nor the weapon, has been found.
No charges have yet been laid as the file is to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice.
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly reiterated the need for proper adult supervision and discussion by parents with their children about safety practices in a statement on Friday.
Gadsby-Dolly extended condolences to Griffith’s family and friends.
She said officers from the Student Support Services Division have conducted a debriefing session virtually, with her peers and parents of the deceased.
She said the form teacher and the dean have been asked to follow-up on students who may need further intervention.
The school’s administration has also engaged the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for support if requested by teachers.
Griffith’s death occurred during a week of nationwide protests over the murder of Andrea Bharatt, whose body was found on February 4, six days after she went missing after taking a car she thought was a licensed taxi.
Bharatt was cremated on Friday, and an Arima man has been charged for her murder.