Two burnt bodies within one week in Laventille.
Is this a new form of killing by rival gangs in Laventille?
Desperadoes Steel Orchestra won the 2016 National Panorama title after many years. It was not easy for the band, having to flee the hills of Laventille and practise elsewhere. For several seasons, the band practised in an empty lot at Queen’s Park East. This year, they practised in the yard of the demolished Grey Friars Church on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain.
Management and members were scared to practise on the Hills because of the crime problem. Gunmen were targeting people. Visitors were scared to go to the Hills so it became a very uncomfortable situation.
Killings in Laventille are nothing new. What is alarming is the frequency of the killings and no arrests. Since the demise of Aldwyn King and his gang in the 1980s, Laventille has broken loose. King was the boss of the Hills and no one dared to challenge him. He even tried to challenge Dole Chadee, but some of his members met their demise, including brother Derek King who was killed in San Fernando.
Aldwyn King was killed in a shootout with the police. Since his death, criminals have sprung up. Today, is either you belong to Rasta City Gang, or the Muslims gang. If you refuse to join either, you are killed.
The majority of people in Laventille are law abiding citizens who go about their normal business. But they KNOW all the gang members and choose to stay silent because of fear.
Fear? Fear of being accused of being a snitch, and secondly, because some police officers, who are close to gang members, can sell you out as having given the information.
The People’s Partnership Government deployed soldiers to assist the police when the murder rate escalated in Laventille. Today, the People’s National Movement Government has done the same thing. Was there a decrease? After the deployment, statistics show there was a lull in the killings.
As soon as the presence of the soldiers decreased, murders increased. The gangs monitor the movements of the joint patrols. Because of the tricky terrain, it is virtually impossible to patrol everywhere in Laventille.
Things were so bad a few years ago. A major contractor got a job to pave roads in Laventille. Because of fear, he subcontracted the job who showed no fear and went into Laventille. The gangs in Laventille were fearful of the subcontractor.
THE KILLING FIELDS
Some of the killings:
* On February 28, prisons officer Fitzalbert Victor, 32, was washing his vehicle at Prizgar Lands, Laventille, when a lone gunman approached and shot him several times. Victor died at hospital.
The boys were then called to exit the vehicle and two of them were shot and killed. The others escaped.
Mark Thomas, a member of Project Reason, who lives in the community, told reporters that the killing of the two was a slaughter.
“If I could speak to the gangsters and them I will tell them that in all wars there are rules of engagement, please excuse the non-combatants. If you know there are people who not in this war, I can’t even call this a war that what happened was slaughter. They picking out the best fruits,” Thomas said.
He said Smith was an aspiring pilot, and had been attending aviation classes every July-August vacation. Thomas said crime was a disease and it should be treated as such, adding that one cure was for the people to unite against the wrongdoers and co-operate with the police.
“Maybe we could stop a retaliation, we as the people have the power but we keeping silent. We have to come together and take away the power from them (killers),” he added.
Police said the teens, both Form Four students, were on their way home with two other classmates when gunmen stopped the car they were in, ordered all the children out and shot the two teens.
Smith collapsed and died near Fatima Trace while Richards died a short distance away.
At the murder scene yesterday Smith’s brother, Devin, called for a ceasefire among warring gangs.
He said his brother was always indoors and only ventured outside when it was time for school or when he was going out to lime with friends out of the area. He said his brother was a good person who got along well with all.
“I hear people laughing up the road, saying they get two and they laughing,” Devin said.
Smith’s mother screamed that her son’s death will become just another statistic and that no justice wil come out of her son’s killing. Overcome with grief she could not be interviewed when approached at the scene.
A woman, who lives not too far from where the boys were killed, said she has lived in the area for most of her 60-plus years and described the tragedy as “heart-rending.” The woman said the presence of police officers in the area could not be a deterrent until the minds of mankind change.
Her neighbour said he was just entering his home when he heard the gunshots and later saw Smith’s body a short distance from his car which was parked along Picton Road.
“I accustomed to this but this is the first time that it was so close. I living here all my life, 54 years, and we tired of this shooting,” he said, suggesting a police post in the area may be a deterrent.
* Within hours of the killing of the teenagers, 81-year-old pensioner, Mosley Phillip, who is said to be the father of one of the men allegedly involved in the shooting of the two secondary school teens, was gunned down in Laventille.
Police said they believed the killing was a reprisal for the murders of the schoolboys.
Several police officers and soldiers were stationed close to Sogren Trace, Laventille, not too far from where Phillip was shot a few times in the chest. According to police reports, Phillip’s wife, Cynthia, was washing dishes when the water supply stopped suddenly.
She woke him up to do a routine check, but he was approached by gunmen who shot him several times about the body. The couple’s couch was also set on fire and police discovered the remains of two molotov cocktails at the scene. Police are working on the theory that Phillip’s killers attempted to torch the house.
A neighbour said Phillip and his wife were quiet people who were never in trouble with anyone.
* Hours later, lower down at Clifton Hill, east Port-of-Spain, police on patrol heard gunshots and upon investigation found the bloody body of a young man.
* On February 20, a man and a woman were shot and killed in Laventille. They were identified as Andre La Touche, 28, and Abiola Noel, 25, of Eastern Quarry, Port of Spain.
Reports are that the two had just left their house in a car, a Nissan Tiida, when they were ambushed by a gang of men.
Both were shot multiple times and died at the scene at Pashley Street.
* Last Monday, a burnt body was found on Parker Street, East Dry River. Police are yet to identify this victim. But it appears that he was shot before he was set on fire.
* On Saturday morning, another burnt body was found just off the roadway along Mango Alley, Laventille.
According to police reports, around 3.30 a.m. on Saturday, residents of the area heard a loud commotion along the roadway and upon investigating they observed the burning corpse of a man.
The police were notified and a team of officers from the Inter Agency Task Force, the Port of Spain Task Force, the Homicide Bureau of Investigations, and the Port of Spain CID, visited the scene and cordoned off the area.
Police were unable to say whether the deceased had been killed before he was set on fire.
The body, police said, had sustained such significant burns that the ethnicity of the deceased remained unconfirmed.
* A 22-year-old man was shot dead in Laventille on Friday night.
Police reports said around 8 p.m. on Friday, residents of Dawn Street, Laventille, heard several loud explosions and upon investigating they observed the bullet-riddled body of a man lying on the road.
The police were notified and a team of officers from the Inter Agency Task Force, the Besson Street Police Station, the Port of Spain Task Force and the Homicide Bureau visited the scene.
Several spent shells were recovered by crime scene investigators.
The body was later identified as that of 22-year-old Kishawn St Louis of Belmont.