Monday 7th August, 2006


CoP assures fair probe

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The killing of forklift driver Shazard Mohammed will be the subject of a coroner’s inquest, sources revealed yesterday.

The file on the shooting is expected to be completed by Wednesday after which investigators will hand it over Police Commissioner Trevor Paul, who is assuring transparency in the investigation.

Paul is expected to study the file before forwarding it to Director of Public Prosecutions Geoffrey Henderson for further directions.

Investigating officers of the Homicide Bureau said yesterday that there were conflicting reports into the circumstances under which Mohammed was shot.

A source, speaking under the condition of strict anonymity, said homicide officers will today interview the Coast Guard officer who fired the fatal shot.

Sources said the day after the incident the 29-year-old Coast Guard officer, whose conduct is being called into question, had been interviewed. But he is expected to be reinterviewed because Mohammed has died.

Defence Force sources said yesterday that the Coast Guard officer had not been suspended.

However, he has been given time off from duties as he was deeply traumatised over the incident.

Mohammed, 25, of Francis Lalla Road, Charlieville, was shot in the face, reportedly at point-blank range while fishing in the Gulf of Paria, near a wreck outside the Port-of-Spain harbour on August 28.

Mohammed and his brother-in-law Adesh Ramkissoon and friend Avinash Ryan were on the family’s 24-foot pirogue when the Coast Guard officers approached and Mohammed was shot.

Police have already interviewed Ramkissoon and Ryan.

Mohammed, who had been battling for his life at the Intensive Care Unit of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, succumbed on Friday. He never regained consciousness.

Mohammed worked at a pharmaceutical company in Port-of-Spain and fished on weekends.

Both the police and Defence Force personnel are conducting independent investigations.

They said the investigation was leading to an inquest.

Sources involved in the two probes said on that night the Coast Guard officers, based at Staubles Bay, Chaguaramas, were dispatched for routine sea patrol on a dinghy.

While on patrol the officers saw Mohammed’s boat and decided to check up on the fishermen.

Investigators said the Coast Guard officers did not suspect Mohammed and the two others to be involved any drug or criminal activities.

They said as the Coast Guard officers started to approach Mohammed’s pirogue from behind, Mohammed started his engine and drove off, although the officers were shouting “Coast Guard, Coast Guard,” and flashing their bright light for identification.

The Coast Guard officers were dressed in full uniform, investigators said.

Homicide officers said as Mohammed pulled off the Coast Guard officers summoned the Customs and Excise Marine Interdiction Unit and their colleagues at Chaguaramas for assistance.

Investigators also believe that Mohammed (just as his bereaved family said) may have thought the Coast Guard officers were in fact pirates and decided to speed off.

Customs and Excise officers arrived and assisted the Coast Guard officers.

Investigators said when the Coast Guard officers tried to intercept Mohammed, his (Mohammed’s) boat slammed into the dinghy which almost overturned.

The Coast Guard officer, now under investigation, fell in the dinghy striking his head.

Investigators said that it was only after the dinghy was knocked that the Coast Guard officers, in keeping with the Coast Guard’s Regulations, fired at the getaway boat.

Military officers said yesterday that under their work Regulations and Standing Orders once their life and/or Government property is in danger they are allowed to protect their lives and/or Government property by opening fire.

They also said that as Mohammed’s boat rammed into the dinghy there was no reason for any warning shot to be fired because the officers’ lives and Government property were in jeopardy.

Investigators said to bring a homicide charge against the Coast Guard officer, the State must prove that he intended to kill Mohammed.

A senior military officer said yesterday that the Coast Guard had already convened a board of inquiry to determine exactly what transpired.

He said the inquiry could take about two to three weeks as all the Coast Guard officers must be questioned at length

He said the findings of the board would then be submitted to the Chief of Defence Staff who will then take it directly to National Security Minister Martin Joseph.

The police investigation, however, will go to Commissioner Paul then to the DPP.

Paul, however, has the discretion to inform Joseph about the police findings.

Paul has promised that the findings of the probe will be made public.

Mohammed was laid to rest on Saturday. His relatives have called for justice and a thorough investigation.

The day after the shooting hundreds of Muslims protested on the Uriah Butler Highway, near Chief Brand Products.



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