May 06, 2019 News
Police brutality in Guyana has come under a renewed international spotlight with the publication of a U.S. Department of Justice Report deploring the widespread ill-treatment of detainees.
The report was unveiled in March and said that there were reports government or its agencies committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
Turning its attention to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the report said, “The law prohibits such practices. There were allegations, nonetheless, that prison officials mistreated inmates as well as claims that police tortured suspects and detainees. Although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, authorities occasionally did not fully respect these rights.”
According to the report, in January (2018) police shot and killed Marlon Fredericks, a mentally ill man. Police alleged Fredericks was killed as he attempted to escape custody. City Constabulary Lance Corporal, Gregory Bascom has since been charged with the unlawful killing of 34-year-old Frederick who ran out of the Outpost, where he was being detained on allegations of simple larceny, assault, and for assaulting a peace officer. The accused is on $800,000 bail as his case is still ongoing.
The report points to a torture allegation against the police by Jameek Hakim. In July 2018, Hakim, then 19, alleged that he was tortured during an interrogation. A probe was ordered in that regard.
Hakim of Berbice said that he was arrested at his home and transported to the Whim Police Station, where ranks allegedly brutalised him. He stated that no reason was given by the police for his arrest but while at the station, he was reportedly put to kneel on the floor and was trashed with an electric wire. He was also allegedly kicked about his body.
Hakim further stated that the ranks then questioned him about a gold chain and while they were questioning him, they dunked his head in a bucket of water. He stated that the police continued to do it after he denied knowing about the gold chain and shortly after pepper was placed in his mouth, which was taped shut.
According to the report, “In January, the government charged a police officer for raping a minor in August 2017. The minor was in police custody at the time of the incident. The case against the police officer was in progress as of November 2018.”
Based on information, City Constable Clifton Pellew was charged and later committed to stand trial at the High Court for engaging in sexual penetration with an underage boy. He is out on $500,000 bail. The incident allegedly occurred on August 15, 2018. According to reports, on the day in question, the juvenile was arrested and taken into custody for loitering and placed on a bench to sit.
It was reported that around 23:00 hrs, a male constable woke the juvenile and told him to lie on his back, which he did. Shortly after, the male rank returned and told him to stand by the washroom. It was reported that the Lance Corporal returned and allegedly unbuttoned the juvenile’s pants, placed a condom on the juvenile’s private parts and let the teen have sex with him.
On April 06, police shot and killed Teon Maxwell, 24, of Bare Root Village East Coast Demerara, as they attempt to arrest him. He, too, was shot and killed as he attempted to escape from the Vigilance Police Station, East Coast Demerara where he was held on allegations of abusing his reputed wife.
Maxwell, who was armed with two knives, a cutlass and a hammer, managed to escape from the ranks and jumped into a police vehicle, which still had its engine running. He attempted to drive off which prompted a police rank to open fire while the man was still in the vehicle, killing him. A probe was launched.
Security guard Mark Johnson, 48, of Corentyne, Berbice, was shot several times by a rank from a party of policemen after he insisted on brandishing a machete at them. He died at the hospital. Reports state that on March 09, police were patrolling the area, when they were stopped by a relative of the now dead man who alleged that he attacked her with a cutlass.
It was reported that police called out to the man and he brandished a cutlass at them, and made several advances. He was ordered by the ranks to drop the cutlass, but he refused, resulting in one of the ranks discharging a round at him.
Rasville, Georgetown resident, Shamar Tanner, 19, has claimed that police ranks brutalised him on March 08. He alleged that police ranks ran him down and unleashed a sound beating on him with their firearms, causing him to lose several teeth. Based on reports, Tanner said that he was about to light a ‘spliff’ when the ranks caught him in the act and pursued him, after he threw away the illicit drug and bolted from them. The police, however, said that while they were trying to apprehend the teen someone threw a metal object at him, which struck him in the face causing him to sustain serious injuries.
In December last, a High Court Judge ordered the State to pay $21, 970,000 to the mother of Dameon Belgrave, who was shot and killed by police in October 2012. Following her son’s demise, Donna Sulker sued the State over his wrongful death. According to facts divulged in court, Belgrave, who was age 21, was shot and killed by then police ranks Sheldon Williams and Eric Williams, who according the Judge, recklessly discharged AK 47 rifles.
Giving a summation of the evidence, the Judge said that on October 05, 2012 at around 18:30hrs, Belgrave went with friends to the White Castle Fish Shop at John and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown, where a vehicle that they were in was parked on the northern carriageway of Hadfield Street.
Belgrave and his friends exited the vehicle and began enjoying the services offered by the White Castle Fish Shop. It was revealed that both police ranks, who were part of a mobile patrol and armed, began discharging rounds recklessly in an attempt to intercept the occupants of a motorcar that they had been trailing. Belgrave, who was described as an innocent bystander by the Judge, was shot and later died at the Georgetown Public Hospital.
Earlier in 2018, a charge was dropped against former Guyana Police Force Cadet Officer Franz Paul after he compensated $2M to Alex Griffith who he had shot in the mouth on April 30, 2014. Paul’s trial for assault causing actual bodily harm, which was at its final stages in the Magistrates’ Courts was dismissed after he offered to pay the monies following an agreement between him, the young man and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
It was reported that Paul’s sister was robbed on April 30, 2014. Thereafter, the Cadet Officer reportedly took her to the police station to make a formal report of the incident. Based on information received, Griffith, then 15, was later arrested by a party of policemen under the command of Paul. It was during the process that the Cadet Officer allegedly discharged a loaded firearm in the teen’s mouth. During an identification parade held at the Brickdam Police Station, Griffith positively identified Paul as the shooter.
Presently, another wrongful death lawsuit against the State is engaging the High Court. This has to do with the killing of Agricola, East Bank Demerara teen Shaquille Grant who was allegedly shot and killed by police on September 11, 2012 in the community.
The court action was filed by the deceased’s mother Shonette Adams in 2014. The woman is seeking $10M. Former police ranks Terrence Wallace, Warren Blue and Jamal Lewis were subsequently charged for the murder of Grant. After a lengthy trial at the High Court in Georgetown, a 12 member mixed jury acquitted Wallace of the murder.
While Lewis still remains at large, Blue was shot and killed on December 15, 2015 during a botched robbery at Montrose, East Coast Demerara. He never appeared in court to answer to the murder charge.
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