Charge room sentries testify at cops' murder trial

File photo -
File photo -

A jury on Thursday was taken through the process engaged by police when issuing and retrieving firearms given to officers for their tour of duty.

Three officers testified - two by oral evidence and one by a formal admission - at the trial of the six policemen charged with the murder of three friends, Abigail Johnson, 20, of St Mary’s Village, Moruga, Alana Duncan, 27, of Duncan Village, San Fernando, and construction worker Kerron “Fingers” Eccles, 29, also of St Mary’s Village, on July 22, 2011, in Barrackpore.

The six officers are Sgt Khemraj Sahadeo and PCs Renaldo Reviero, Glenn Singh, Roger Nicholas, Safraz Juman, and Antonio Ramadin.

Acting Cpl Akil Clarence, who in July 2011 was assigned to the charge room of the San Fernando police station, explained the process involved in assigning a weapon to a police officer. He said a police officer would make a request, and then an entry is made in the firearms registry indicating the type of firearm and ammunition as well as the serial number of the weapon. The sentry, which Clarence was at the time, would sign the register as well as the officer assigned the weapon.

He said Juman was issued a Galil rifle with 35 rounds of 5.50 ammunition and a pistol with 30 rounds of nine-millimetre ammunition. He pointed out the entry in the voluminous registry, which was then shown to jurors after it was tendered into evidence.

Clarence said at the end of a police officer’s tour, an officer will return the firearm, and the signing procedure will follow. The firearms could be re-issued to another officer. Weapons involved in police shootings are kept away from the others. Clarence said he did not know who had access to the Galil after. Clarence said no one officer had a monopoly on the use of a firearm as it could be re-issued on its return.

Questioned by lead defence attorney Israel Khan, SC, the officer said he knew Juman for about three years and did not know him to be “dishonest.”

He also said he knew him to be an efficient officer who belonged to the robbery squad in the Southern Division which was led by Sgt Sahadeo. All six officers were members of the squad.

Clarence also said he knew them as “dedicated and honest” officers who put their lives on the line. He also said he did not ask why officers needed a Galil and did not know what missions they were going on.

Also testifying was Pc Utam Ramdath, who was also a charge room officer who said he received pistols and ammunition returned by Singh and WPC Clement and a shotgun and ammunition from Reviero. He was questioned about the training officers on specialised squads received as well as the use of a Galil. Ramdath said depending on an officer’s duty, they will request a special type of firearm. These would include robberies, shootings or cases where an officer’s life would be in danger.

He said when weapons are returned, they are put in the “strong room” which can only be accessed by a key. In 2011, when he was stationed in the charge room, he said he only knew there was one key and only police officers had access to the strong room.

In his testimony, Ramdath, now a member of the Southern Division’s task force, said he has never been in a shootout or had cause to discharge a Galil. He could not recall issuing a weapon to Clement only that he received a firearm in court. He knew she worked with the robbery squad and that she had been charged with an office but was not aware of what she was charged with when asked by Khan if she was in court and if he knew she had been charged with the six officers.

Ramdath also said once the proper procedure was followed, all firearms that are returned are recorded in the registry.

The formal admissions came from PCs Jagan Balgobin and Jagdeo Bachan. Balgobin was also a sentry in the charge room and signed off on a pistol for Nicols. Bachan was a fingerprint expert who retrieved five metal objects from one of two police vehicles which were at the basement of the police administration building in San Fernando on July 28, 2011.

The five metal objects were retrieved from one of the vehicles while nothing of evidential value was found in the other. He submitted the items to the Forensic Science Centre on August 2, 2011, and received certificates of analysis for them.

The trial continues next Wednesday.

Presiding over it is Justice Carla Brown-Antoine at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain. The officers are also represented by Ulric Skerritt and Arissa Maharaj.

Representing the State are special prosecutors Gilbert Peterson, SC, and Elaine Green while State prosecutors Giselle Ferguson-Heller and Katiesha Ambrose-Persadsingh also make up the prosecution team.


"Charge room sentries testify at cops’ murder trial"

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