Rich Plain residents react to shot-from-behind autopsy: We told you so

PC Clarence Gilkes. Photo courtesy TTPS
PC Clarence Gilkes. Photo courtesy TTPS

While some may have been shocked over the findings in the autopsy report of PC Clarence Gilkes, several residents of Upper Rich Plain, Diego Martin are not surprised. They feel vindicated by the findings which seem to contradict the official police account.

Gilkes, 44, was shot dead in Upper Rich Plain Road, Diego Martin last Friday.

Police originally claimed Gilkes was shot and killed by gunmen in the area and began searching for a 29-year-old man, Jehlano Romney, who they suspected was the killer.

Shortly after the incident, acting Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob described the killing as a declaration of war on the police by criminals and dismissed the possibility of Gilkes being shot by one of his colleagues.

He said, “An officer was shot in his neck from the front and we’re talking about friendly fire?”

But an autopsy on Tuesday concluded Gilkes was shot from behind. No further details were given on what type of bullet was found.

Police confirmed that as of Tuesday afternoon, the man was no longer considered a murder suspect but someone who would have information to help the police in their investigation.

Jacob said that several units of the police have been mobilised, with assistance from the defence force, to locate Romney.

On Saturday, an audio recording by Romney giving his version of events leading up to PC Gilkes' death was circulated on social media.

In his account, he claimed he was unarmed during the incident and that Gilkes was shot by one of his fellow officers.

Newsday visited the area where the incident happened on Wednesday and spoke with residents who said they were not surprised by the findings.

One resident said while it is important for Romney to give his version of events to the authorities, he was unsure how he should meet the investigators.

"The only thing I can really think of is if some independent body meets him somewhere and they can have the officers interview him.

"Outside of that, it's perfectly reasonable to be afraid for his own safety, even after the autopsy results have come out."

Another resident said while he was pleased that the autopsy result was publicised, he was not confident any action would be taken against the officers who were with Gilkes at the time.

A view from the top of a staircase on Upper Rich Plain Road, Diego Martin where PC Clarence Gilkes was shot dead on Friday last week. - Shane Superville

He said he also felt Romney was still at risk of being targeted.

"We need to have a level field between the layman and the powers that be. And even though we can't do anything about it, we know there is injustice 24/7 and that's just what is the accepted reality, we know we can't do anything about it.

"So when we see an innocent man become guilty, why the hell should he offer himself up as a sacrifice? He would disappear."

Contacted for comment, the Romney’s mother Kadaffi Romney said while she was relieved the autopsy could provide further details on Gilkes death and felt it cleared her son of wrongdoing, she was still concerned for his safety.

"I'm waiting to see what's going to happen next, just like everyone else.

"I am 100 per cent still concerned about my son's safety, because there may be a few rogue cops out there and their thug sidekicks they use.

"There's really not much else I can say, except thanks to his attorney Criston Williams, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and criminologist Renee Cummings.

"I also want to thank the public who waited for the facts and didn't jump on the bandwagon."

Newsday also contacted Williams who originally represented Jehlano but has since distanced himself, noting that his former client was no longer considered a suspect in the incident.

He said while there may be concerns over the man's safety, there were certain things that could be done to ensure his protection while in custody.

"You can choose to assist or not assist the TTPS. That is up to him. And if he is still fearful, because we all know what can happen to a witness, there are legal provisions that may be put in place.

"But that's not my call. He is no longer my client at this stage and I no longer represent him."

Contacted for comment, Jacob said the results of the post-mortem examination was only one part of the investigation. He said Jehlano’s statement was needed now more than ever.

Responding to concerns that he may be targeted by officers if he was found, Jacob attempted to reassure him that he would not be harmed.

"I want to give him (Jehlano) and his mother all the assurance that he will not be harmed in any way.

"We provided contact numbers for him to call the Homicide Bureau of Investigations to give them his account.

"It is needed for us to get to the bottom of this entire incident."

Jacob said during the inquiry, if required, the investigators would contact the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) if there was any suspicion of police misconduct.

Earlier on Wednesday it was reported that the man was no longer considered a murder suspect, but Jacob said the only way to determine this would be for the man to give his statement.

He added that the weapons of officers on the scene on the day of PC Gilkes death have already been taken for ballistics testing and promised that every tool available would be used in the investigation.

Newsday spoke to Gilkes' older brother Mervyn Gilkes who said while the autopsy report also shed light on the circumstances leading up to his brother's death, it was still a difficult time for the family.

He added that for now the family was waiting for the outcome of the investigation.

"At least we have an idea what the cause of death is. That's the most I can say.

"Nobody is getting over that right now. Yes we got the autopsy report and all that, but I don't know what to say.

"The autopsy was done and we just have to wait and see because the Commissioner (of Police) said it has widened the scope of the investigation."

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