Hours after the attempt on the life of a prison officer in El Dorado, Tunapuna, residents were still reeling in fear yesterday, as they realise that they noticed strange vehicles and people lurking around in the area days before.
As a result, they are sending a warning to residents of all communities, especially where prison officers reside, to be on the safe side and look out for any strange vehicles and people and report it to the police.
During a visit to the community yesterday, one resident who wished that he not be identified told the Guardian Media that they were left traumatised following Tuesday night’s brazen attack.
“Coming to think of it, there were strange people seen in the area in and out days before and we believe that they were checking out the area carrying out their own observations. They knew where the prison officer lived so they were watching movements, people around, ins and out maybe the fastest way out or the best way to do their thing,” the resident said.
“But yea, in this timing you have to look out for strangers and strange vehicles. Take down the number plates and even take photos of the people or watch them good so you could call the police on them. Let’s try and stop this foolishness that happening. It have everybody jumpy and frighten.”
At the shop where the incident took place, its steel doors remained tightly shut and broken pieces of glass were seen on the ground. The house connected to the shop was also locked up tight as no one appeared to be home.
A few houses up to the adjacent cross street was the home of the police officer, 28, who was wounded in the incident. He did not speak but according to his father, they were told not to say much on it as “a serious investigation is currently going on so we have to be very careful.”
He, however, cleared the air, saying his son is currently on suspension having been last assigned to the Port-of-Spain Task Force Operational Team and therefore had no gun on him to shoot at the assailants. However, the father said despite this, his son attempted to defend the life of his friend (the prison officer) and was shot and wounded in the hand. The officer, who was at home at the time, remained inside his home and did not speak.
According to an official police report, at about 7.30 pm the 32-year-old prisons officer, who is the proprietor of a parlour at Clementy Street, El Dorado, was conducting sales at his shop when he saw three men come out a dark-coloured SUV and start firing at him. The prison officer drew his licensed firearm and returned fire. The suspects then re-entered their vehicle and fled the scene. The prison officer then noticed that his friend, the police officer, who was liming at the shop, had been shot in the hand.
Officers of the Tunapuna CID, Northern Division Task Force-West and Port-of-Spain Task Force responded and recovered two pistols, each with extended magazines with a quantity of 9mm ammunition.
The scene was processed by Northern Division’s CSI, who recovered 24 .223 shell casings and 29 9mm shell casings.
On Monday, prisons officer Nigel Jones was killed in Siparia in full view of his three-year-old daughter. Four days before, his colleague, prison officer Trevor Serrette, was killed in Valencia.
During a media conference on Tuesday, the Prison Officers’ Association said there was a hit list in which 13 officers were marked to be killed before Christmas. It is alleged that the death threats were made by a high-profile prisoner currently housed at the Wayne Jackson Building at the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca. The inmates there claim they are being abused by masked prison officers among other ill-treatment.
Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob yesterday said they were aware of the “hit list” and assured the TTPS will be “providing even more assistance, inclusive of patrols, to prison officers, especially those who are soft targets.”
Jacob said police officers had already approached some of the prison officers and given them advice.
“We’ve had situations of such attacks in the past, where persons are targeted, not for doing anything wrong themselves, but simply because they are in a profession, and they can be easily located,” Jacob said.
“They are targeted because they are readily found, and therefore they are used as a means to send a message. But again, I want to emphasise that we are treating with this, we have uncovered intel, and we are working towards arrests even as we speak.”
Police yesterday said a suspect was held in connection with the incident after he turned up at a hospital seeking treatment for a gunshot wound.
He was at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope last night under police guard after receiving treatment for a wound to his back. The bullet is reportedly lodged in his spine.