EIGHT POLICE officers have been arrested in a major breakthrough in the two-year-old homicide investigation into the fatal shooting of three men in Second Caledonia, Morvant.
Seven of the officers fired their weapons repeatedly killing Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Moses Clinton, almost instantly in a volley of gunfire during a stop and search near the Auto Guru building, Juman Drive, on June 27, 2020.
Among those detained are a sergeant and seven police constables who were arrested. Police said one of the officers was arrested on Thursday night and the others early Friday.
Investigators confirmed that one of the officers has agreed to co-operate and give evidence against his colleagues.
The arrest of the eight is a part of a painstaking forensic investigation which saw investigators re-enact the scene of the crime last August as they were guided step by step by Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard SC.
One of attorneys representing six of the officers, Ulric Skerritt, in an interview on Friday said he had visited his clients at various police stations on Friday after they were detained by a special task force, led by Supt Wayne Abbott.
In a radio interview, acting CoP McDonald Jacob said on Friday eight officers had been detained between Thursday night and early Friday as the investigation drew to a close. Jacob said the investigators would seek the advice of the DPP once the arrested officers were formally interviewed.
Attorney: Officers treated like 'common criminals'
Skerritt said he had spoken to his clients who were kept separately at police stations in Morvant, Arima, Maloney, St Joseph, San Juan and St James.
The officer who has agreed to turn State witness recently returned from overseas and has given statements to investigators in the matter, sources said. A previous operation to arrest the officers had to be called off after they learned that the officer had travelled to the United States on a one-way ticket.
Investigators intend to interview each of the officers under caution before consulting Gaspard on whether there is sufficient evidence to support criminal charges as high as murder.
Skerritt said his clients were in good spirits and four of them were confined to cells on cold concrete without even the luxury of a mattress. He said he was told by a member of the investigative team that his clients would have been interviewed as early as 9 am on Friday but by 12.50 pm none of them had been questioned.
He said the officers who have "put their lives on the line are being treated as common criminals" and he expects the Police Association to support them if they are charged with any offence.
The attorney said his clients believe they acted lawfully after one of the three men pointed a firearm at them during a stop and search. Seven of the eight officers who were detained are assigned to the Inter-Agency Task Force and seven of them fired their weapons during the incident.
The seven shooters had been sent on administrative leave in July 2020 after the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), which did a parallel probe, made a recommendation to then commissioner of police Gary Griffith.
Victim's parents: Faith in police restored
Responding to the development, Sterling and Carol Jacob, the parents of Joel Jacob, said their faith in the police and the justice system have been restored.
"The wheels of justice turns very slowly and my wife and I have been traumatised because our only son was killed by the police. He was not anti-law and was brought up as a law-abiding citizen.
"I know we have some good police and I hope this will help weed out the rogue elements in the service where some officers take the law into their own hands. This is something the powers that be have to deal with because these rogue officers are making my country look like a banana republic. No matter what, the life of my son cannot be brought back but I pray for our system where we can have law-abiding officers doing their duty diligently," Sterling said.
His wife said she was happy to know that her's son's killing was not swept under the carpet like so many other cases of fatal police killings.
She said she hopes the arrests serves as a wake up call to other officers so that "we all can continue to show our respect and have trust in the police service which has dropped tremendously."
She appealed to the acting CoP and his senior officers to do more to monitor the actions of officers, especially those who are suspected of being rogue, to remove them from the service as she and her family awaits the outcome of the judicial system.
The tragic incident, Sterling said, has brought the oppressed community of Second Caledonia together in love, unity and harmony. He also praised the diligence and professionalism of the task force led by Abbott and the DPP for ensuring that justice prevails.
Police: Ten more officers under probe
Police said ten other officers, assigned to the Guard and Emergency Branch, who were part of the joint team which intercepted a gold-coloured Nissan Tiida hatchback remain under investigation in a wider probe of conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice and misbehaviour in office.
The shooting incident was captured on CCTV cameras and shared on social media mere hours after the incident.
Police claimed officers opened fire on the three men after one of them pointed a weapon. However, security camera footage conflicted with the officers' account as two of them had their hands in the air when they were shot repeatedly.
The killing of the three men sparked three days of violent protests in the capital city and other parts of the country and the Prime Minister appointed a committee to find out the root causes of the protests.
Jacob, 38, was celebrating his birthday with his childhood friend, Diamond, who lives nearby, when he stepped out of his house and took a drop from Clinton to go and buy a bottle of rum at a village shop. The trio had not travelled more than 20 feet before they were stopped by armed officers who alighted from four jeeps. Jacob emerged from the back seat with his hands in the air, Clinton held his hands above the steering and as Diamond lowered the left back window, all three were repeatedly shot.
Police bundled their bodies in the back of a jeep and sped off while other officers pointed their weapons at residents who were brave enough to peep though their windows, residents said.
A mural has been painted on the wall of the Auto Guru building in remembrance of the three men whose deaths have brought the fragmented community of Second Caledonia closer.
The arrest of the officers come after public disquiet over the police killings of three young men on Independence Square, Port of Spain on July 2 and a fourth man, Tristan "Ratty" Springer, 24, at Second Caledonia that same day. Those killings also sparked violent protests on July 4, as protesters blocked the Beetham Highway, Priority Bus Route, parts of East Port of Spain and Lady Young Road, Morvant.
Police were expected to submit a preliminary file to the DPP in that matter on Friday.