Sunday 12 July, 2020

Mom of son killed by police: Gary Griffith must resign

Mom and son in happier times, Tessa Borneo (left); Mechack Douglas (right)

Mom and son in happier times, Tessa Borneo (left); Mechack Douglas (right)

What happened in Trou Macaque, Laventille on Thursday, October 25, which led to the police killing of five men?

The mom of one of the deceased is calling for an independent investigation into the incident and for Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to step down.

Tessa Borneo, a 39-year-old nurse, lives in England and is the mother of Mechack Douglas, 22.

Douglas was killed in what police say was a shootout when they went to execute a warrant for him and Shaundell St Clair, 20, in relation to the April murder of Darren ‘Cowman’ King.

Also killed were Shekeem Francois, 15; Kudeim Phillip, 17 and Nicholas Barker, 23. She says at least two others escaped. 

Autopsy results revealed that all five died from multiple gunshot wounds. No specific details were provided.

Speaking with Loop TT on Monday, Borneo says her son lived at Upper Wharton Street, Laventille and was at the house in Trou Macaque playing wappy (a card game).

She says she has spoken to the brother of one of the men who managed to escape and the details (which can’t be revealed because of hearsay) suggest that the men and teens were executed.

“Alyuh murder these young boys as police officers and nobody ain’t get suspended, nobody ain’t get charged, nobody ain’t get lock up and Gary Griffith threatening people’s lives and he in charge of the police system in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Borneo says claims that the boys shot at officers were false - and alleges that the officers acted like hitmen.

She also slammed the Police Commissioner for his support of their behaviour, and called on him to step down.

“He need to resign and get a different job because at the end of the day, you cyah allow your officers, even if they say they going to execute a warrant, to go to execute a warrant and kill four... four young men. They have mothers and you backing these officers and find that nothing ain’t wrong with that.

"People in the village protesting; the 90-year-old woman go and say she see the boys with dey hands in the air, yuh dismissing that. People going to the police complaints and complaining about it, yuh dismissing that and yuh threatening the public and telling them, ‘anybody interfere with your officers and send any death threats, they go see the real you.’

"What that saying, you is the Police Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago, what that saying about our country?”

Laventille men and boys at risk

It’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself. Men in hotspot areas across Trinidad and Tobago are gunned down by rivals or by police. There’s a stigma attached to crime-ridden communities. Borneo says for those living in these environments, the trials are real.

“The times that we living in now and some of the pressures that does be on these young men especially if they living in certain areas where automatically yuh have to choose a side that yuh on. Because yuh might be living one place and is Muslims but you mighten be a Muslim and you living in one place and is Rasta and you mighten be a Rasta and these two is the two rival gangs in Trinidad and Tobago.

"You might say, ok, you have family living so [a direction sic] yuh not in nothing yuh going over so and come back and leave and you go and they might [say sic] ‘but he living across dey boy, them is Rasta city’ bam they kill you and they done. Yuh not really having a choice."

She also spoke of the absence of positive role models as well as father figures in the lives of young men growing up in Laventille and criminal areas.

“Most of these young men, they living with dey mom alone. A mother cannot raise a boy child, she will try but some in these young fellas does look up to these guys on the streets who having money, who looking nice, who dressing, who have nice house.

"And they looking like they living comfortable in their eyesight and they will idolise them and try to use them as they role model and they want to be like them and before they know it they getting they self involved with guns, shooting, they might go and thief to get something if they can’t get it from they parents ...or they want to flash and look nice like everybody else, they just trying to fit in. So they will give into certain things and start doing certain things."

Borneo says her son was not perfect but does not believe justice was served in his death.

“Yuh will go and get different remarks about him. I am not saying my son is a saint, I will never say that but at the end of the day, if the police come to execute a search warrant and lock yuh up, follow the law and lock yuh up.

"You can’t be judge and executioner at the same time because you know why? You acting just like the same criminals on the streets because yuh doing the same thing because how you could do something like that and say justice was served?”

Loop TT asked Borneo what she would say to children susceptible to joining a life of crime. She could not decide the best message as she believes a cycle of misdirection, violence and poverty is all that most of them see. In spite of this, she urged them to attempt to seek an alternative.

“Try, alyuh just try. Sometimes they don’t eat when the day come and they living every day in survival mode. What I could tell these people? When you go and talk and talk in dey ears that talk not putting food in dey belly or shoes on dey foot. What I could tell these children?”


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