Drug Rehab Counsellor shot dead outside Stabroek Market
- police rank fingered
The drug rehabilitation fraternity in Guyana was plunged into shock yesterday with the brutal slaying of one of its best known counsellors, Ralph Turpin.
Turpin, 54, was shot twice in his head at point blank range when he intervened as a peacemaker during a heated argument between two warring factions outside the Stabroek Market at around 03:00 hours.
The shooter is said to be a policeman attached to the West Demerara Division. He has not yet been arrested, while police are also looking for a female accomplice.
Crime Chief Seelall Persaud when contacted yesterday afternoon about the possible involvement of a police rank told this newspaper that the police were still in the initial stages of the investigations.
Turpin, who was formerly attached to the Phoenix Drug Rehabilitation Centre at Mon Repos on the East Coast of Demerara, and ran another halfway house, at his 25 Agriculture Road, Mon Repos residence, is believed to have died instantly, although he was rushed to the Georgetown Hospital where an official pronouncement was made.
This newspaper understands that Turpin and a few friends had gone to the Stabroek Market area to buy food after a night out when the incident occurred.
Lesley Spooner, who was with Turpin and the other friends, recounted that she was in the process of purchasing the food from a roadside stall, when another woman who was also buying food started an argument with her.
Spooner said that one of her companions urged her not to engage the woman but she persisted.
“Somebody said something to me and I answered them because my mouth is hot,” Spooner stated.
She recalled that the woman who started the argument was brandishing a gun.
“I could remember seeing her with a gun. But this other man had a gun too,” Spooner told this newspaper, adding that one of her friends, Karen Busby, who was Turpin’s female companion, was desperately trying to cool things down.
Spooner said that both the man and woman were waving guns, saying, “y’all don’t know who y’all f…ing with.”
According to Spooner, the man with the gun struck down Busby with his hand and this led to Turpin who was sitting in the car, intervening.
“I just hear Ralph say ‘you don’t have to do that’ and then it was, Pow! Pow!” Spooner recalled.
She said that it was the man who did the shooting, but she did not realise that Turpin was the person that had been shot.
“I thought was Karen he shoot, because she was still on the ground,” Spooner told this newspaper.
It was only after she saw Turpin also lying on the ground that she realised what had happened.
The visibly shaken woman is thankful that the shooter’s gun malfunctioned or ran out of bullets, since he had pointed it to her head also and kept pulling the trigger, but it did not go off.
“I don’t know but when he clicked, it had no more bullets. He would have killed me and he would have killed she (Busby) too!” Spooner recounted.
The woman and the man then jumped into a car and sped away.
Busby gave an identical account of the incident adding that the trouble-making woman had grabbed her while she was trying to bring the situation under control.
“When she snatched me, I said, ‘you and I don’t have a problem, what’s up with you?’ and then a Negro guy came out of her car and pushed me down and then pushed her (Spooner) down. It was then that Ralph came out of the car and said, ‘How can you treat a woman like that?’ that was all Ralph said and the man put the gun to Ralph’s head and Bang! Bang!”
Busby explained that the shooter then turned to her but the gun malfunctioned, resulting in the man stomping her to the ground.
“I kept telling them that Ralph was shot and I ran to him. I would have been shot with him,” Busby stated.
To make matters worse, Turpin was stripped of all his jewellery and money by persons who pretended to be assisting.
There are reports that the shooter and his accomplices were heavily under the influence of alcohol, having just left a popular city bar.
Ironically, the incident occurred just a few yards from the police mobile outpost, which was placed there earlier this year to curtail criminal activity in the Stabroek Market area.
Turpin’s death will certainly impact the lives of a number of recovering addicts who saw him as their only true mentor.
When this newspaper visited the rehab centre that Turpin ran, the inmates there were mostly speechless.
However, a few of them summoned the courage to speak with Kaieteur News.
“He has been rehabilitating my life and my relationship with my wife. He’s one of the best counsellors in this country, period. I got deported to this country and he’s the best by far, that is why I chose to come here, because I know he can help me. That’s who Ralph (Turpin) is. That is why he went to make peace with the guy who killed him,” said Christopher Sultan, an inmate at the rehab centre.
Lakeram, a deportee from the United States since 1992, has been under Turpin’s watch for the past year.
“He help me to get off of drugs; help me manage myself, get a job and come off the streets,” Lakeram said. He explained that they last saw Turpin early Wednesday night when he told them that he was going out with his girlfriend for a drive.
When they did not see him yesterday morning, they became worried and initially felt that he was just missing.
They went into shock when they eventually confirmed that Turpin had been fatally shot.
“I hear from an inmate that Ralph missing, this morning. He ask if Ralph was at home and I said no he wasn’t. He say, hear wha happen, dem ain’t finding Ralph.’ I asked him where was Karen (Busby) and he said that she was at the Kitty Police Station. Then I hear that the man get two bullets in he head,” Lakeram said.
However, the inmates have vowed that despite Turpin’s death the drug rehabilitation programme will go on.
This was confirmed by Clarence Young, who is involved in the sister organization, the Phoenix Recovery Project.
“It is really a great loss to the recovery community. Right now I think that everybody is still shocked. We just hope that we could keep these young men (inmates) together until systems can be put in place so that this programme would continue,” Young stated.
He said the reality is that the need is so significant for such programmes, it would be sad to let Turpin’s death derail his legacy.
Young said that his organization would be willing to lend whatever support it could so that Turpin’s rehab programme will not falter.
Meanwhile, relatives of a food vendor outside the Stabroek Market are upset that the police have detained her in connection with the murder.
Beaubien Harvey, the father of Trecia Harvey, of Second Street, Agricola, told Kaieteur News that his daughter was placed into the East La Penitence lock-ups after she could not provide investigators with the information that they were seeking.
“She told them that the man was at her stall, but he went over to another stall to get some metem and shortly after she heard gunshot,” an upset Harvey told this newspaper.
He said that he was told by the police that his daughter was not cooperating.
“They want her to tell them what she does not know,” Harvey stated.