'Gun salute' at funeral of Morvant don killed by police

Tricia Springer, mother of Tristan
Tricia Springer, mother of Tristan "Ratty" Springer, is comforted by a friend during his funeral at the basketball court, Second Caledonia Road, Morvant on Saturday. - AYANNA KINSALE

The police lied about everything.

That was the bold claim of Tricia Springer at the funeral of her son, Tristan “Ratty” Springer, 24, who was killed by police officers on July 2 while still in his bed at Cipriani Avenue, Second Caledonia, Morvant.

Tristan’s funeral service took place on Saturday at 1 pm at the basketball court in Second Caledonia, and he was buried at the Tunapuna Public Cemetery. No uniformed police or marked vehicles were seen in the area.

At the service, mourners were dressed in t-shirts printed with images of Tristan and gathered under two tents set up for them as the rain fell during the ceremony. Others stood or sat on the periphery, smoking what appeared to be marijuana and drinking alcohol, waiting for the blue and red casket to be opened so they could view their friend.

After the service, some mourners crowded around the casket while dancehall music blared from a truck set up with speakers nearby. None seemed startled as multiple gunshots rang out as Tristan was saluted by young men, many of whom were dressed in white vests and three-quarter pants. They quickly picked up and pocketed the bullet casings which scattered around them.

Tyrika Bartholomew, sister of Tristan "Ratty " Springer, views his body during his funeral at the basketball court, Second Caledonia Road, Morvant on Saturday. - AYANNA KINSALE

At one point during the service, the mother of Tristan’s first child insisted on seeing the body and flipped opened the casket’s lid. Springer became incensed, insisting that she wait until the service was completed, and they began to shout and curse each other even as the pastor and some other mourners tried to bring calm.

Tears ran down their faces even as they shouted at each other, and fellow mourners held them back while trying to de-escalate the situation.

After things calmed down, a friend of Tristan described him as "a general" and an amazing man who was always willing and eager to help. She said he always wanted better for himself and his three children, two with one woman and a two-month-old baby with another. And that he wanted to improve himself and had plans to open businesses.

“No one should judge anyone because everybody are sinners in God eyes.”

His uncle spoke about Tristan’s love for football saying he was a Chelsea fan, and recalled a relative telling them if someone ever hit them, they should hit back. His aunt spoke about his concern for his friends and his love for his daughters. And his sister, Tyrika Bartholomew, recalled how protective he was of her and his family.

According a police report, officers of the North Eastern Division Task Force executed a search warrant for firearms and ammunition at Tristan's home around 5.45am on July 2. The officers entered the house and went to a bedroom where they saw Tristan on a bed with a teenager. According to the police, the officers called out, Tristan pointed a gun at them, and they opened fire.

On the Beyond the Tape programme on TV6 on July 4, Supt Roger Alexander said police went to execute a warrant and Tristan he emerged with a gun. Alexander said the officers fired at him as they believed he was going to kill them. He later died at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.

Explaining what she heard from eyewitnesses, Springer told Sunday Newsday the police’s version conflicted with the account of people in the village. She said even the time her son was killed was wrong as the incident occurred closer to 6.30 am.

She claimed her son was asleep on the bed with a young woman when six officers entered the house. One stayed in the front bedroom pointing a gun at the owner of the house, another was pointing a gun at another occupant in the living room, and four officers went to her son’s bedroom where they kicked down the door and pulled the woman off the bed.

She said the police called out, “Get up, come to me!” and “a barrage of shots” was heard.

“The next thing you know is that they toting my son. They bring him out in the yard and rest him down like a dog and leave him to bleed out. Only then they brought him down the hill to the road and put him in the van.

“From what the people who was there, who followed the police vehicle said, they stopped by every single traffic light before they carried my son to the hospital. They leave my son to dead.”

Springer was told the police went looking for her son around 10 pm the previous night, but he was not at home. But the man who was present claimed the police said to tell “Ratty” they were “coming for him.”

Tristan "Ratty" Springer who was shot dead by police at Second Caledonia, Morvant on July 2. 

The mother claimed police had been asking about a piece of paper in the days after his death and connected him to a home invasion in Ellerslie Park, Maraval where three safes had been stolen recently.

“I don’t know what the paper is, I knows nothing about nothing because my son, whatever he was up to, he always kept me at bay when it came to that because he knows I not into this kind of life. He didn’t grow up in this life.”

Tristan had been in trouble with the law several times had recently been released from prison on bail after being charged with assault with intent to rob for a crime in Freeport on January 27. He was also believed to be associated with several gangs, police said.

Springer said she knew Tristan was not innocent, and would have dealt with his death if he was killed while “doing what he did” but, in this case, she said the police killed him wrongfully and she wanted justice for her son.

She said he had two lawsuits against two officers of the Morvant police station over his arrest and detention sometime before.

Springer said officers from the Police Complaints Authority had visited the scene, took some videos, did some interviews, and she claimed they too felt that “something was off.”

She said the room where her son died was very small and if her son had tried to run away as the police claimed, the whole room would have been shot up. But, she said, all the shots were directed at the bed where he was lying.

“The mattress he was lying on, it looks like a strainer. It’s just littered with holes.”

She questioned if the police version was true and a gun was found in the house, why then were the two men who were held at the house released after five days in custody without any charges.

She added that Alexander said on his programme that people in Second Caledonia were silently celebrating Tristan's death, but all she was getting from the people in the community was love. They told her he was “like the ghetto Robin Hood” who helped everyone.


"‘Gun salute’ at funeral of Morvant don killed by police"

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