By ALEXANDER BRUZUAL and NALINEE SEELAL Thursday, August 15 2013
Three teenagers were among six persons who were executed by gunmen within a 20-hour period between Tuesday night and yesterday afternoon in separate shootings in East Port-of-Spain, Laventille and Maloney.
The crime spree involved the callous killings of two 16-year-old cousins, Naim Chester Antoine and Rasheeda Gomez, who lived in Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartment buildings along Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, and 17-year-old Sean Lewis, who was shot dead at a mechanic shop in Laventille.
For most of the day, the streets of the capital city echoed with the distraught and heartbroken cries of the relatives of Antoine and Gomez , as the families were unable to cope with their violent deaths.
Antoine was asleep when, at about 4 am yesterday, two men stormed his apartment at Duncan Street and dragged him out of his bed at gun- point. The frail teenager, who suffered from sickle cell disease, was heard screaming for help as the gunmen took him by force to George Street, stopped near apartment buildings 58-60, and beat Antoine with blunt instruments before shooting him, in his head, chest, and legs.
With his dying breath, Antoine managed to cry out one last time for help before his life ended. The killers fled the scene.
Residents of George and Nelson Streets became so angry when they found the bloodied body of the teenager, they firebombed a parked Mazda 626 car, believing it was the killers’ ‘get away’ vehicle. Residents also collected debris and trash and blocked the roads.
A party of officers from the Besson Street Police Station, the Inter Agency Task Force, the Guard and Emergency Branch and the Homicide Bureau of Investigations, including Superintendent Kenny McIntyre, ASP Ajith Persad, Inspector Singh, Inspector Jawahir, Inspector Brown, Inspector Maraj, Sgt Spence and PC Masclier arrived on the scene and the area was cordoned off.
The officers removed the debris from the roads, allowing traffic to pass.
District Medical Officer Dr Ebeleme was called out to view the boy’s body, however, he had a misunderstanding with a member of the Homicide Bureau and left the crime scene without examining the body, much to the further annoyance of residents. It was only after the intervention of ASP Persad that the doctor returned and was allowed to continue his work.
The teenager’s body was then removed to the Forensic Science Centre, St James.
Relatives told Newsday they were shocked over Antoine’s death, and could not understand why he was killed.
“He was such a good and caring person, loved by everyone, always trying to make you smile. He used to ask me, ‘mom why I had to suffer from sickle cell?’ And I didn’t have any answers for him. But he never once let that keep him down. He worked hard for everything he had and owned, and would take up side jobs to buy his own clothes and shoes and stuff, because he didn’t even want to rely on me,” said the boy’s mother, who did not want to be named.
“All I can ask at this point is for justice to be done. For the police to find the men responsible and to bring them before the law for their deeds. The next thing I will ask for, is for these young men to please, please turn away from a life of crime. Please, for the sake of the children, please stop,” she pleaded.
Her cries were in vain, as about eight hours later Gomez was riddled with bullets while she was liming with her boyfriend, Shondell Braithwaite, 18, in an apartment at Duncan Street.
Shortly after 2 pm, gunmen stormed the apartment where the two teenagers were alone, and shot the young couple repeatedly before fleeing. Braithwaite received injuries to his left shoulder, while Gomez was shot about her upper body.
After the gunmen left, Braithwaite tried to make it outside to alert his neighbours and was found at the door. The two teens were rushed to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, however, Gomez died shortly after arrival.
Her body was taken to the Forensic Science Centre in St James, where an autopsy is expected to be done today. Unconfirmed reports claimed Gomez was pregnant.
“Why they kill her? First Naim and now her? Why they killing the children so? They not in any gang! They not harming anybody! Oh Lord! Why they killing the children? Everybody loved this child. What they kill her for? Somebody please tell me why?” pleaded Gomez’ grandmother, who also did not want to be named.
Then at about 4.15 pm, Port-of-Spain Division officers were called out to two separate shootings in which another teenager and a man were killed. Police said Sean Lewis Jnr, 17, nicknamed “Biscuit”, was fixing a car at Trotman Street, Laventille, when two men approached and, after a brief conversation, they pulled out guns and opened fire on the teenager who died on the spot
Sean Lewis Snr said his son was about to enter Form Five at Malick Secondary School, and he was spending his vacation learning a trade at a mechanic shop.
Lewis said he was at his Trou Macaque, Laventille home when someone told him his son was dead.
“My son don’t drink, he don’t smoke. He wanted to be a soldier. He was here fixing a car, a car When they walk up to him and kill him! What they do that for? He never troubled anybody! He was just a youth,” he said. While on this scene, officers received reports that another shooting had taken place at Quarry Street, Laventille. When the police arrived they found a gold coloured Nissan Almera car crashed on the road. The driver was proceeding along the road, when two gunmen began shooting. The driver, who up to press time yesterday was unidentified, slumped on the steering wheel and crashed the car. He died on the spot.
The deceased was said to be in his late 20s, six feet tall, slim dark and of complexion with short hair.
The police were again called out to another murder at about 6.30 pm, when residents of Blondell Alley, Laventille, heard loud explosions and then found a man, who was unknown to them, bleeding about his body. The wounded man was then rushed to the hospital, however, he died while undergoing treatment. His identity also remained unknown.
The killing spree began the night before, at about 10.30 pm on Tuesday, in Maloney with the death of 23-year-old Aaron Williams.
Williams was liming with three friends near Building Nine when they were approached by three men, who pulled out firearms and shot at the group, before fleeing. Police said all four friends were injured, and rushed to the Arima District Health Facility.
Williams was pronounced dead on arrival, and his friends were treated and warded. One victim, Theo Edwards, was transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, and was in critical condition up to late yesterday.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Supt McIntyre called on the residents of the “crime stricken” areas to come forward and assist the police.
“Too many times in situations like this, you have people dying and there would be witnesses who would have seen who did it, but who refuse to come out, out of fear for their own lives. But by doing this, they themselves are facilitating and allowing their own communities to be held at hostage. The majority cannot continue to allow the minority to hold them at ransom like this,” McIntyre said.
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday described the crimes as “distressing”, adding he had spoken with National Security Minister Emmanuel George and the HDC about attacks on residents in State-owned apartment buildings.
“The police have also been asked to intensify their presence in the Port-of-Spain area. This incident is unfortunate in the extreme.”
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night said the recent spike in murders was discussed at the last meeting of the National Security Council, which she chairs. Speaking to reporters at Rienzi Complex, Couva last evening, she said, “We discussed the spiking of murders and as to how they (the police) will deal with that spike. As I mentioned before, we had seen a pattern in August of a spike but I think (National Security) Minister (Emmanuel) George will give you some more details on that.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson yesterday disclosed a meeting of the police, army, intelligence unit and other stakeholders was to be held last evening.
“By the ages of those killed, it seems we are dealing with people who lack any moral conviction. So again I wish to ask the public and all members of society if they know anything, anything at all which could solve these murders to call the police. Call my number, call any police number you know and we will treat this in a very confidential manner,” he said. He said measures would be put in effect today to arrest the situation but declined to elaborate.
Newsday was informed that all senior officers of the Port-of-Spain Division and surrounding jurisdictions are expected to meet from 9 am today at the Police Commissioner’s Office, Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain.