Unit Commander denies ranks shot at protestors
By Latoya Giles
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Patrick Todd has denied that any of the Tactical Services Unit (TSU) ranks under his command fired at protestors on July 18, last, at Linden. According to Todd, he was the only officer who discharged tear smoke into the crowd after there were loud explosions, which sounded like gunshots. At the time of his testimony, he was being guided by attorney-at-law Peter Hugh who is representing the state.
ASP Todd was another senior police rank who was called to give account of what transpired on July 18, during the protest at Linden which left three men dead and several other persons nursing injuries.
According to Todd, the officers in his unit were “afraid” of the crowd since they were throwing bricks and bottles.
“They were throwing bottles with substances which seemed to be acid…among other things,” he told the Commissioners for the inquiry.
Todd testified that it was around 11:00hrs on July 18, he received a telephone call from then Commander of E and F Division, Senior Superintendent Clifton Hicken, who told him that the unit in which he was in charge of should go to the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge.
Todd recounted that after he received the call, he made a call to another rank, informing him about the instruction he was given by Commander Hicken. Todd said that he was reminded about the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs).
He said that the unit arrived at the bridge about 20 minutes after receiving the call from Hicken. Todd said that he reported to Hicken who gave him certain instructions, which caused him to allow his unit to “de-bus and go into formation”. He further told the commission that Hicken approached the unit and briefed them.
According to ASP Todd, there were about 800 persons on the bridge and most of them were women. He said that the persons on the bridge were chanting against the electricity tariff hike which was imposed to the community.
“They were shouting that they were not paying no electricity bill and they would burn down the bridge,” Todd related
Todd said that later in the day, he was informed by Hicken that he (Hicken) had received a telephone call stating that there were persons being robbed, while cooking and other illegal activities were happening on the bridge.
Todd stated that he was informed that he and his unit should be on standby. It was around 18:00hrs, Todd noted, that he was instructed to report to the bridge since they had received instructions to clear the structure before it got dark.
Todd said that he informed his unit that they should not engage the crowd without instructions. He told the Commission that he arrived at the bridge and saw about 300 persons, who were mainly women. He said that he instructed his unit to go into their approach formation. Todd related that at this time he was using his loud hailer to try and convince the crowd that they should disperse and go home.
The ASP said that the crowd was not moving and they continued to chant and block the bridge. Todd further stated that persons began hurling bottles, stones and other items towards the unit. He said that he then informed the unit to go into “line approach formation”. Todd said he made a call to Hicken and informed him about the manner in which the persons were behaving.
According to Todd, it was Hicken who told him to use the tear smoke and shotgun, which is in the SOPs for dealing with crowds. He said that as the unit advanced he heard loud explosions which came from the Linmine area. Todd said that the explosions sounded like gunshots. The officer said that after his unit heard the “explosions” they became afraid.
Todd explained that he was still advising the crowd to disperse or they would fire. He said that he took the CP riot gun from one Constable George and fired one 1.5 cartridge tear smoke towards the ground. He said that he then took a CS hand grenade of tear smoke from Constable Mc Bean and threw that onto the ground also.
Todd said that at this point he heard another loud explosion and he again called Hicken and informed him what he had heard. Todd said that he was instructed that he should proceed to clear the bridge by using minimum force. The officer said it was then that persons continued throwing bottles with a substance which seemed to be “acid” at them.
Todd asserted that he tried various methods to get the bridge cleared and was informed that another unit from Georgetown was being dispatched to Linden to lend support.
He said that later in the evening he was made aware that persons were injured.
Attorney-at-law James Bond also started his cross examination of the witness. Bond proceeded to ask the witness about his training in riot crowd control. According to Todd, he has worked with several commanders, and throughout the election period from 1992 to 2011. He was asked how many crowds he has engaged to which he replied, “about 100”. Todd further told the commission that he had commanded ranks in relation to over 25 riot crowds.
Todd was then asked about the experience of the 18 ranks he had walked with to Linden.
He said that some of the ranks did not have much experience in crowd control, but generally they were not inexperienced.
Bond will continue his cross-examination today.