An argument over the dumping of debris near a wastewater treatment plant is what relatives are claiming led to the killing of Moruga watchman Vernrick Hudlin by an off-duty policeman on Saturday.
Villagers are calling on the police to launch a full-scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
The Police Complaints Authority has said it has initiated an investigation into the fatal shooting, pursuant to Section 26 of the Police Complaints Authority Act Chap. 15:05.
“The public is assured that due process shall be followed at all stages of the investigation. In this regard, the PCA will not express any view prior to any determination by a court of law as same may be tantamount to attempting to interfere with due process and the course of natural justice,” the PCA said.
Hudlin, 54, worked and lived at the Gomez Trace Wastewater Treatment Plant at the Housing Development Corporation’s (HDC’s) Ridge View development at St Mary’s Village. The officer who allegedly shot him also lives in the development.
According to a police report, around 4.50 pm the officer was sitting in his car when he had an altercation with a man unknown to him. The officer claimed that Hudlin attacked him with a cutlass and he shot him once with his service revolver.
Hudlin, the father of a 16-year-old boy, was shot in the chest. With assistance from another occupant in the car, the officer took Hudlin to the Princes Town Health Facility where he pronounced dead on arrival.
The officer was questioned by the police and released from custody. A two-minute and 31 second video of the incident shows Hudlin walking on the side of the road holding a cutlass when a blue car suddenly stops in front of him. Hudlin walks up to the driver´s window and seconds after raises his cutlass. Hudlin then falls to the ground.
The driver exits the vehicle, along with the front seat passenger and walks up to Hudlin. About a minute later they lift Hudlin, place him in the back seat and drive off.
At his Moruga home yesterday, Hudlin´s stepfather Michael Walker, 65, said he heard that just before the incident Hudlin spoke to a resident about dumping garbage at the treatment plant.
“All I want is proper justice. All I want to know is the truth about it.” Recalling years ago three civilians were killed by the police in the area and the officers were charged, he lamented, “I hope that justice prevails in this matter. This boy don’t do nobody anything. Vernrick did take he lil drink and entertain people and that’s it. That child don’t do nobody nothing to say that is the threat to society or anything like that.”
His wife Mary Hudlin-Walker, 71, said she was not happy with how she was treated by the police. She said she went to the police station twice on Saturday seeking answers about her son´s death. She said the first time she waited more than half an hour outside the station and called out to the police inside, but no one came out.
The second time after waiting a while, she said they called the station´s landline and then an officer came out. The officer told her that the matter was being investigated and her son was dead, but she got no details as to what transpired.
Wiping away tears, she lamented, “He did not attack nobody as far as I hear (from) all who see, but they fraid to come out…” She has not seen her son´s body and don’t know where it is being kept.
“I want justice for my son because that child does not interfere with nobody. He drinks he lil rum eh. He works at WASA pump station there and all he does is sing, play music and he is loved. He is a loving child,” said Hudlin-Walker as she broke down in tears. Hudlin was the second of her six children and he had been working at the plant as an attendant/watchman for about six years.
Residents in the area were shocked over the incident. “That man never use to trouble nobody. We glad allyuh here,” said one resident who did not want to be identified. Pointing at a heap of backfill next to the fenced wire in front the treatment plant, another resident said, “This is what caused everything. Imagine this is what a man lose his life for.” The family has informed Police Commissioner Gary Griffith about the incident and they also intend to make a report to the Police Complaints Authority. Investigations are continuing.