By Michael Jordan
Ballistic tests have revealed that ranks firing shotguns loaded with copper-coated cartridges killed the three Linden protesters and injured several others, a senior police official said yesterday.
The official told Kaieteur News that what were first thought to be bronze-tipped bullet fragments were actually copper-coated shotgun pellets, which were extracted from two of the slain men.
Kaieteur News was told that this was confirmed by the Force’s ballistics experts who viewed the evidence under a microscope.
The official said that the experts explained that the retrieved pellets were bent out of shape, and this could have caused them to be mistaken for bullet fragments. The source said that the pellets extracted from the dead were similar to the copper-coated pellets that were extracted from some of the other wounded protesters.
Kaieteur News was told that the ballistics team is in possession of shotgun casings that were allegedly retrieved from the scene of the protest. By checking the firing pin and other makings on the casings against the shotguns used, investigators should be able to ascertain which rank (s) shot the protesters.
“We have the casings; we are waiting for the shotguns. If they are the same guns, we will find out which gun(s) fired the fatal rounds,” the official said.
Unlike bullets, which can have markings on the warhead and bullet casings, only the shotgun casings—but not the pellets—will have firing pin and other markings.
Trinidadian forensic pathologist Professor Hubert Daisley had told reporters that bronze-tipped metal fragments, suspected to have come from a handgun, were extracted from the three slain Lindeners during the autopsies.
This appeared to confirm claims by eyewitnesses that police armed with other weapons had shot at the protesters.
Asked whether four shotgun cartridges could have caused the deaths of three people and injury to 12 others, the official stated that this was possible.
It is believed that the ranks were standing about ten to 15 feet from the protesters when they opened fire directly at the gathering.
Some police sources have suggested that the ranks should have aimed at the ground to disperse the unarmed protesters.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law Enforcement) Seelall Persaud has said that only four shotgun cartridges were missing from the ammunition that police ranks took to the scene. He said that the ranks who had shotguns have given statements to investigators.
However, the Crime Chief said that all the other ammunition that the ranks had was intact.
The hands of the ranks who were at the protest were not swabbed for evidence of gunpowder residue. Persaud stated that this was unnecessary because all the other ammunition was accounted for.
Contrary to the Crime Chief’s view, a forensic expert said that the hands of all the ranks, including those who used shotguns, should have been swabbed for evidence of gunpowder residue.
The expert also said that all the weapons that were used at the scene of the shooting should have been handed over to ballistics experts to establish whether they matched shells and warheads that were retrieved.
Kaieteur News was also told that although crime scene ranks travelled to Linden, they were not instructed to search for any ballistic evidence. They were reportedly only instructed to collect evidence from fires that were set and to take photographs, something that the expert found to be unusual.
Controversy has arisen over the identity of the ranks who killed the protesters, over what type of firearms were used, and at the fact that excessive force was allegedly used against an unarmed group.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) and other groups have expressed a lack of confidence in the police being able to conduct an impartial investigation into the tragedy.
This had led to the AFC hiring the services of Professor Hubert Daisley to view the autopsies.
AFC Executive member Nigel Hughes also disclosed that United Kingdom ballistics expert, Dr. David Robinson was willing to view the ballistic tests on evidence related to the case and also to conduct tests of his own.
The attorney said that the AFC has written to Commissioner of Police Leroy Brumell requesting permission for Dr. Robinson to participate in this aspect of the investigation.
Hughes also said that the AFC has gathered ‘significant evidence’ relating to the fatal shootings at Linden.
But he said that the party will release this information to international agencies before handing it over to local investigators in an effort to protect the eyewitnesses.
According to the AFC executive member, several of the witnesses have expressed fear of their identities being released to the police.
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