An ex-policeman convicted for shooting a man in his leg twice and slipping his own ammunition into the service gun in place of some of the rounds he had discharged at the victim, will spend the next 84 months in prison.
Former Tactical Services Unit (TSU) rank Ocquema Dawson, 28, was yesterday jailed by Magistrate Judy Latchman for discharging a loaded firearm and unlicenced ammunition possession.
The court heard that whilst performing duties on February 18, last year, Dawson, then a serving rank of the force, entered the Globe Yard on Waterloo Street and approached a group of men.
Reports are that the rank walked up and held on to one of them. Phillip Small noticed what had happened and intervened by speaking to the rank about the way he handled the man.
Dawson reportedly became annoyed and cuffed Small and the man cuffed him back. The rank then discharged three shots from his gun – two hit Small on his right leg.
The bulletproof vest which Dawson was wearing that day was later observed to have had several cuts about it and the rank was subsequently charged with damaging the force’s property.
The force had revealed that Dawson was issued a pistol with 15 rounds of ammunition but when he returned after the incident, the gun had 14 rounds. They contended that the rank should have returned 12 rounds, since three were discharged at Globe Yard.
Incidentally, two matching spent shells were recovered from the scene and the two extra rounds were suspected to have been illegally acquired. Following a four-month probe, three charges were instituted against the cop who resides at Murphy Street, Goed Intent, West Bank Demerara.
Dawson was accused of discharging a loaded firearm at Philip Small, with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or cause him grievous bodily harm on February 18, at Georgetown. He was charged with having two live rounds of 9mm ammunition without a licence.
Dawson was also accused of unlawfully and maliciously damaging the $245,000 bullet proof vest.
Last year on June 12, the rank was brought before the Chief Magistrate and he denied the charges. His matter was transferred to Magistrate Latchman for trial at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court.
As she ruled yesterday, the Magistrate recalled testimonies from several persons who testified during the trial. She said though a police rank had attempted to prove that Small had used a scissors to damage the bullet proof vest, she found the demonstration flawed.
The Magistrate said that no evidence was brought to show what the bullet proof vest was like before the incident and dismissed the Damage to Property allegations.
Dawson was found guilty for the ‘excess’ ammunition.
For shooting Small, the Magistrate recalled that Dawson, in an unsworn testimony, had claimed that Small attacked him and attempted to stab him with a scissors.
Nonetheless, Latchman said that a firearm should be the last resort of any police rank and noted a court ruling where it was explained that the fact that an act was considered necessary does not mean that the resulting action was reasonable.
The Magistrate said, however, that one shot was enough to restrain Small and that a member of the TSU should not have acted in that manner. She noted that Dawson shot at Small twice and ruled that the rank did not act out of self-defence but rather with intent.
He was found guilty as charged.
During mitigation, Defence Attorney Lyndon Amsterdam urged the court to consider that Dawson opened fire during the execution of duties and in the heat of the moment rather than in a cold–blooded, contemplated moment.
Amsterdam asked the court to consider that Dawson is a serving member of the Police Force who had never before this incident been charged. He added that as it related to discharging the firearm, his client was in the situation where he was required to execute his duties. Amsterdam said that Dawson had been present at all sessions of his trial.
The lawyer requested a suspended sentence. Amsterdam asked that the cop be spared incarceration and not be sent where he could be harmed and exposed to “criminal elements.”
In handing down her sentence, Magistrate Latchman stated that she had considered the mitigating factors and that Dawson was a TSU rank at the time of the incident. She emphasised that force members should always exhibit caution when dealing with members of the public.
The Magistrate also stressed the need for the courts to send a message to members of the force that abrasive actions will not be allowed.
Dawson was jailed for 36 months and fined $50,000 for the illegal ammunition. He was sentenced to 48 months imprisonment for discharging the firearm at Small.
The sentences are set to run consecutively.
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