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By Ryan Hamilton-Davis and Stacy Moore Thursday, August 21 2014

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Central Trinidad is proving to be a deadly hideout for criminals as three more men, not from the area, were felled in a gun blazing confrontation with police in Freeport on Tuesday night. This is the second such incident in the area, in as many weeks, with this latest episode bringing to five the number of men killed by police officers in pursuit of bandits in Central.

And with it comes another warning from the man who told criminals on the last occasion to stay out of Central, Snr Supt Johnny Abraham, that residents of the area should be very wary of people to whom they are renting their property.

“Always seek a form of ID,” Abraham, the head of the Central Division, said last night praising the police officers for the sacrifice they make and the risk they take in combatting criminals on these exercises.

The three men killed in Tuesday night’s shootout with the police are all from La Horquetta in east Trinidad. They are David Baker, 28, a father of two; Kareem Edwards, 19, and Reuben Richins. The confrontation took place in a house they were occupying in Freeport.

According to police reports, at about 7.30 pm on Tuesday, officers of the North-Eastern Division Task Force, under the supervision of Inspector Roger Alexander and Cpl Barath attempted to execute a search warrant at Koorban Ali Drive, Calcutta No 1, Freeport.

When they entered the house, police say they were greeted by gunfire. The officers returned fire and the three men were shot. They were rushed to the Couva Health Facility where they were pronounced dead on arrival.

Police say they recovered a revolver and three rounds of ammunition, as well as a Ruger .45 and two rounds of .45 calibre ammunition. Police officers also found two bullet-proof vests which had a security logo. While police claim the three men, particularly Baker, were wanted for several offences including murder and shooting, relatives who spoke with reporters at the Forensic Science Centre (FSC) in St James said the men were killed in cold blood.

“I basically raised both of them (Baker and Edwards) by myself,” Kadisha Prince, Baker’s sister and Edwards’ aunt said last night. “Kareem’s father died when he was young and I never saw his mother so I helped raise them both.”

She added: “My nephew was like any other little boy he would go out on the road and you would have to look for him because he was out playing football. My brother was all for his family. He ended up giving a little trouble, but people make mistakes. But he was trying to do the right thing.”

Prince revealed Baker had two little children and he was living for them. As far as the family knew, she said, all three of them were home in their boxers and the police kicked down the door, and they never even got a chance to defend themselves.

She said, “My nephew was running away, and Reuben was blocking his face. David was a loving young man who would do anything for his family. Kareem used to do woodworking and David used to do welding. My mother hasn’t shed a tear because she is in shock.”

Desta Richins, the mother of Reuben, said he was led astray by bad company. She said the only thing she could do for her son, who had a mind of his own, was to pray.

“Reuben was a quiet and easy going, but he got caught up with bad company and friends,” the grieving mother lamented. “He was never locked up before, he had no ‘priors’ and he had no warrant. The reason he was at the house was because it was his friend, David’s house. He and David grew up together like brothers and he went to his house in Freeport to visit on Sunday last.”

Richins said she went to church on that Sunday so she did not know his movements that day. She described Reuben as “quiet for a while until he grew older”

She added: “I never asked him about his movements because he was his own man as I always told him. When I heard the news it was horrible. I never expected that his friends would get him in this kind of trouble. I always used to pray for him every day because he would be home today and gone tomorrow.”

She said she was getting nervous for the last couple of months and prayed about it, adding that she believed, “that is when I got my healing.”

“So I said, ‘Lord whatever is your will give me the strength to handle it’,” Richins said.

Despite the claims by the relatives of excessive force by the police against the men, pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov, who conducted the autopsies at the FSC, confirmed the men were all shot multiple times from the front which means at the time of the shooting they were facing the police. According to the pathologist, there were no entry wounds at the backs of the three men, which suggested none of the men was attempting to flee when the shooting started. All three men had perforated hearts as they were all shot in the chest area. Swabs were taken to test whether they had fired weapons recently. All three died instantly.

In his TV show Beyond the Tape, Inspector Roger Alexander responded to the relatives’ claims that the police officers shot the men “down like dogs.” He said the men had a long list of offences that they had to stand trial for.

“If you are in possession of a 45 and a revolver what is your intention?” Alexander questioned, answering himself, “Illegal.”

“I want the public and the family to know this when they are making those statements. I want them to consider the jewelry store robbery where a man was murdered in Tunapuna, the “Zoltan” killing in Arima, by the court; the shooting by Rich Gold where a security guard was shot, a shooting outside Villa Capri involving a B1; Jabari, out of La Horquetta, and two men that went missing in the Pinto Road area. I wonder if they were shot like dogs?” he questioned.

Of the 37 shooting incidents involving police, 14 were killed in the Central Division, and a further seven were persons from areas outside of Central.

Baker, Richins and Edwards had been tenants of a three-bedroom apartment at Koorban Ali Drive for the past five months.

Residents who spoke with Newsday described the men’s behaviour as “suspicions” and were fearful to speak out, but commended Abraham, Alexander and the team of police officers.

“I am so thankful that the police dealt with this matter because from what I heard these men are criminals and this is a peaceful community and our lives may have been at risk with these men living here,” a mother of two said.

She said the men’s lifestyles appeared to be “not normal”.

“They had a lot of expensive stuff and expensive cars, but the three of them would always be indoors during the day, and at night there would always be activity at the home with a lot of vehicles in front the house,” she told Newsday.

A man said that a woman with a child also stayed at the home.

“The child, a boy could have been no more than one year, but they did not come out much,” the man told Newsday. “But it was strange the woman and child were not there yesterday (Tuesday),” he said.

He said he was indoors when he heard loud explosions. “We were advised to stay indoors by the police, but everyone was looking out,” the man said. “ I saw when the police surrounded the house and you could hear the gunshots from inside. They were shooting back at the police like something from a movie. I could not, I still can’t believe, that criminals came to our village and we had no idea what was going on.”

Speaking with Newsday yesterday Abraham said the officers were faced with a heated exchange of gunfire and had to defend themselves. Abraham said judging from the bulletproof vests, the men were well trained. He further commended the team for their efforts in suppressing criminal activity in the Central Division.

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