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Bizarre case being probed
Police officers tasked with investigating a bizarre shooting between two of their colleagues were up to late yesterday still trying to piece together what transpired at Grand Bazaar, Valsayn, on Wednesday night.
There were several conflicting reports over the incident which resulted in a shootout between Sgt Darryl Honore and Cpl Darnell Melville. However, the common thread was that it stemmed from a love triangle between the duo and one of the men’s ex-wife.
Honore was last assigned to the Central Division while Melville works in the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF). Both men are said to be in their 40’s and have been officers for over 10 years.
According to one police report obtained by the T&T Guardian, around 9.35 pm an officer went to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant with an “unnamed female companion.” That officer was allegedly verbally abused by his colleague, who entered the restaurant subsequently. One of the men reportedly accused the other of being responsible for the collapse of his marriage.
“You make meh loss meh wife and meh house and I ain’t taking that tonight,” the officer is alleged to have said in a loud tone.
One of the officers then allegedly followed the other out the restaurant, drew a firearm and began shooting at his colleague, who in turn drew his and returned fire as he backed away. The officer who started firing then chased after his fleeing colleague, who was also still firing.
Security officers assigned to the restaurant managed to pull the woman away before she got caught in the crossfire.
Both men were wounded in the brief exchange and were taken to the nearby Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, for treatment.
Police first responders seized the two firearms, three magazines and 12 rounds of ammunition from both officers, while crime scene investigators recovered 28 spent shells on the scene.
The report stated that while at the hospital, both men admitted the firearms were their personal weapons for which they were issued firearm users’ licences by the Police Commissioner.
A subsequent release from the T&T Police Service (TTPS), which did not refer to them by name, stated one of the officers was discharged around 7 am yesterday, while the other remained warded. The T&T Guardian understands the discharged officer then went to a private medical institution for additional treatment.
Both officers are expected to be questioned by the investigators as soon as they are discharged from hospital.
However, a dubious preliminary police report circulated yesterday claimed that the officers were the victims of a shooting and that their attacker escaped in a Nissan B13.
But the later main report appeared to be partially corroborated by CCTV camera footage of the incident, which was provided by businessman Derek Chin, whose company operates the American restaurant franchise. Footage taken by a member of staff and posted on social media yesterday also appeared to be consistent with the main report.
The 18-second clip, taken from a camera outside the restaurant, showed an armed man dressed in police tactical pants and boots walking up to another man, dressed in plain clothes, and firing several shots at close range. The victim then drew a gun and returned fire as he ran away. The first man fell to the ground in the exchange, but got up and hobbled towards the other man whilst shooting.
The staff member’s video showed startled customers and staff hiding in the restaurant’s kitchen shortly after the gunshots rang out.
Police Social and Welfare Association president, Insp Michael Seales, said yesterday they were not ready to comment on the incident.
“We are still gathering our thoughts because the actual facts about what occurred has not really gelled as yet,” Seales said.
However, the incident drew scathing criticism from the public yesterday, especially on social media where the officers were condemned for bringing the T&T Police Service into disrepute.
CHIN: STORY NOT ADDING UP
In a telephone interview yesterday, businessman Derek Chin, who owns the Ruby Tuesday franchise, said he had heard the initial reports but that they did not seem to match with the CCTV footage.
“I am trying to understand the video because it is not making sense. It was one policeman. I am not seeing any woman in the picture. I don’t know how bullets got to my restaurant,” Chin said.
Asked whether his staff would be given counselling, Chin said he did not think it necessary as the shooting occurred in the carpark and not in the restaurant.
“It was in the carpark, we just suffered collateral damage. If there is a fight and somebody is shot in my restaurant that is another story,” he said.
Chin also noted that due to recent robberies at the mall, he had assigned armed security officers from his company, Telecom Security, to guard outside the restaurant during opening hours.
When a team from the T&T Guardian visited the mall yesterday, the restaurant was open for business, although the front showcase was cordoned off as it had several bullet holes.
Staff at neighbouring businesses, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said they were not shocked by the incident, however, as there had been several recent armed robberies on the compound.
“T&T gone mad. Anything can happen anywhere in Trinidad. I just surprised that it is two police officers involved in this stupidness,” one said.
Another suggested that the mall required armed security.
“The officers here are not equipped or prepared to deal with armed robberies or situations like this,” another said.
In a release issued yesterday evening, the mall’s management said it was pleased with the response of police and happy there were no civilian injuries or casualties.
“The management of Grand Bazaar will continue to do all that is necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of our customers and tenants,” it said.
Supt Sheldon David, of the Northern Division, along with detectives of the Professional Standards Bureau have been assigned by acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams to investigate the incident.
Williams has called for a full probe into the matter.
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