Cop shot dead in police station but…. Who killed WPC Bernadette James?

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The pleas of Susan Roopnarine-Ramroop at the funeral service of PC Anson Benjamin on Tuesday, have brought back memories of other similar incidents.

 

Roopnarine-Ramroop wants justice for her husband, PC Govindra Ramroop who was shot dead by a colleague who was cleaning a gun at the La Brea Police Station on November 5, 2015.

SUSAN ROOPNARINE-RAMROOP

SUSAN ROOPNARINE-RAMROOP

To date, she has received no official word from the authorities about the investigations. Nothing from the Homicide Bureau. No inquest.

The shocking killing inside the police station brought back memories of the killing of PC Carlos Guerra inside the offices of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad, Police Headquarters, Port-of-Spain, on August 11, 2005, and the fatal shooting of WPC Bernadette James during a police training exercise at Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas, on October 2, 1987.

THE BERNADETTE JAMES KILLING

WPC BERNADETTE JAMES

WPC BERNADETTE JAMES

Picture this. Woman Police Constable Bernadette James is sitting in the middle of a police bus.The bus is filled with police officers on an anti-terrorist exercise at Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas, on October 2, 1987.

The bus is attacked by terrorists and in descending on the bus, shots were fired. Somehow, a live round mysteriously entered the chamber of a policeman’s gun outside the bus.

That live round reportedly went through the front glass of the bus, bypassed everyone sitting in the front of the vehicle, and struck James in her chest.

That live round, among a thousand blanks released for the exercise, pierced James’ chest and she died sometime later while undergoing treatment at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, Cocorite.

Jamaat Al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr is convinced that James was not accidentally killed, but murdered. Why?

He is on record as saying that sometime before James died, she along with her husband and mother came to see him. “This woman was real frightened. She felt her life was in danger and she was scared. She believed that someone wanted to kill her and she wanted protection.”

Bakr never went into details of the discussion he had with James. It was said that the woman was on duty at Piarco International Airport when it is believed that she witnessed a deal with high-ranking government officials.

According to sources, James entered a room at Piarco and saw then Attorney General Selwyn Richardson and another official in a questionable transaction with other persons.

But as far as James was concerned, she saw nothing. The other persons did not think so, however, so they exerted pressure on her and her superiors to get rid of her.

Bakr said he felt concerned for James’ safety in light of what he was told. He said he went to the then Commissioner of Police Louis Jim Rodriguez seeking assistance, but it fell on deaf ears.

THE EXERCISE

James had gone to Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas, on October 2, 1987, with members of the Multi-Optional Police Section (MOPS) for an exercise involving the capturing of hostages.

The exercise was supposed to be the finale of a training stint for the elite squad. The then Minister of National Security Herbert Atwell, Rodriguez and his deputy commissioners, Jules Bernard and Sampson Phillip, were invited, along with other dignitaries.

There were several demonstrations that day. In the first demonstration, there was an exercise involving captors and captives. There was a bus carrying several police officers, including James. They were the captors. The bus was stormed by members of another team, they were the captives.

The firearms to be used on that exercise should have carried blanks. During the attack, somehow James got shot while sitting in the middle of the bus. She was shot from a bullet discharged from a gun from a colleague who was reportedly outside the bus. She was rushed off to hospital on the orders of then Supt Gregory Mendez, who was in charge of MOPS.

The police searched for the shell of that live round which killed James, but to this day, it was never found.

That incident shook up the entire MOPS team. Several of James’ colleagues wept openly that day and in the months ahead. Several police officers were so traumatised from the events, that they left the service and migrated.

PC Gregory Pierre, whose conduct was called into question at the Coroner’s Inquest, also left the service and migrated.

At the inquest, Pierre said the day before the events, he had placed his personal firearm, a Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol and an Uzi sub-machine gun in his kit bag at the Lucy Beadon Clinic, St James Barracks.

The following day, he returned to the Barracks and checked both firearms. They were clear of ammunition. At Chaguaramas that day, Pierre took his pistol from the bag and holstered it. He was provided with blank ammunition. The Uzi weapon was still in the bag.

Pierre was the driver of a vehicle which was to intercept the police bus. On the instructions of senior officer Michael Maxima, Pierre drove his vehicle along Covigne Road and blocked the bus. He alighted from the vehicle, drew his pistol and adopted the position he had practised.

Pierre then fired his pistol in the direction of the bus. As he was proceeding to his next position, he noticed that the windscreen of the bus was shattered. As he was taking out a captor from the bus, Pierre heard James cry out for her chest.

He ran into the bus and observed a small hole in James’ chest. She was placed in Pierre’s vehicle and rushed to the hospital. Pierre handed over his pistol to Maxima at the hospital. As a person trained in weaponry, Pierre was certain that he had fired blanks that day.

He told Coroner Melville Baird that anyone who handles arms and ammunition would know the difference between a blank round and a live round of ammunition.

Several of the persons on that exercise gave evidence before the Coroner. Because the shell was not recovered, it was impossible for one to determine whether that bullet was discharged from Pierre’s firearm.

Based on the testimony of the witnesses and what was presented to the court, Coroner Baird ruled that James was killed in circumstances that ruled out accident or misadventure.

“The court is of the opinion that there is ground for suspecting that some person is guilty of an indictable offence in the death of WPC James,” Baird ruled. But he was unable to reveal the identity of the person who discharged the fatal shot, and who should be charged with, and held responsible for that indictable offence.

In other words, Baird believed that someone, other than PC Pierre, was responsible for James’ death. He ordered that the file be sent back to the Commissioner of Police for further investigations. That was on September 2, 1992—23 years ago.

Nothing further has been done, no more investigations conducted, and James’ death remains an unsolved mystery.

KILLING OF PC GOVINDRA RAMROOP

On November 5, 2015, Police Constable Govindra Ramroop went to work at the La Brea Police Station as normal. He was always prepared to protect and serve as the police motto says. He always talked about what he would do when challenged by criminals. He was proud to wear the police uniform.

Little did he know, that day would be his last on this earth. He was felled by a bullet, not from a criminal, but from a colleague and friend, who was cleaning his service revolver in the police station.

Homicide Bureau officers have been treating the killing as an accident, since they were told the officer was clearing his firearm when it discharged and a bullet struck 25-year-old Ramroop on the side of his abdomen.

PC GOVINDRA RAMROOP

PC GOVINDRA RAMROOP

According to reports, Ramroop, a Special Reserve officer of Laltoo Trace, Penal, and two other officers had just returned from checking out a report of a woman being threatened by a male relative.

On returning to the station, the officers went to a room around 1 am where Ramroop was shot.

He was immediately taken to the Point Fortin Area Hospital by his colleagues where doctors tried to stem the bleeding. However, he died around 2 am while being prepared to be transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital.

Convinced that her husband’s death was no accident, Susan Roopnarine-Ramroop on Tuesday begged National Security Minister Edmund Dillon not to allow her husband’s killing to become a cold case.

Saying her life had gone topsy-turvy since his passing, Roopnarine-Ramroop said the man who killed her husband was still on active duty.

“We need closure. We have been calling the investigators to find out what is happening with the case and they keep telling us they are awaiting a forensic report. It is 160 days since he died and we have not received closure,” Roopnarine-Ramroop said.

She told Dillon she wanted him to look into the case personally.

“I have no one to go home to. We were married for one year and two months and then he was killed. Our lives were stolen from us,” she cried.

She added that the circumstances under which Ramroop died were at best “suspicious”.

“I do not believe that his death was accidental. I think he was murdered. When PC Benjamin was shot in the head he lived for three days. My husband was shot on his side and they say he died 45 minutes later. He bled to death,” Roopnarine-Ramroop said.

“I think he was killed deliberately and it is haunting me because this case is running cold and I am not getting any answers.”

After hearing her appeal Dillon promised Susan to look into the case.

“My deepest condolences to you and your family. I will definitely look into it to see what’s happening. I will have a discussion with the Commissioner of Police and see where that matter is,” Dillon said.

He added: “I know it is under investigation and I will definitely have a conversation with the Commissioner of Police and update you accordingly. I will provide you with.

KILLING OF PC CARLOS GUERRA

On August 11 2005, PC Carlos Guerra was shot dead by a colleague in the offices of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad, at Police Headquarters, Port-of-Spain. A Coroner’s Inquest ruled that no one was guilty of a felony, and the shooter PC Sheldon Narine was cleared of wrongdoing.

PC CARLOS GUERRA AND WIFE KATHERINE

PC CARLOS GUERRA AND WIFE KATHERINE

The widow, Katherine Guerra, testifying at the inquest, remembered Carlos’ last day.

It was August 11, 2005. She said she was at work in Arima when Carlos passed on his way to work. Around 7 pm, she called Carlos who said he was going to get something to eat.

“He said he loved me, he was in the habit of telling me that. He said he was waiting for Narine to go and get chicken.” Narine was Carlos’s friend and they worked together.

Katherine said it was sometime after midnight when she got a call from ASP David Nedd who said there was an accident. She was taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where she was told that Carlos had died.

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