By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A MAN reportedly owned up to his involvement in the shooting of a senior police officer when police interrupted his medical examination to arrest him for questioning, a jury heard yesterday.
Constable 327 Renaldo Burrows testified in court that when he and his superior arrested Excel Josey at a medical facility, the then-suspect named Maurice Armbrister as the man who fired the shot in the late night attack on Supt Clayton Fernander outside his home moments after he pulled into his St Vincent Road driveway.
When cross-examined by Josey’s new lawyer Jiaram Mangra, the officer admitted that they entered the closed examination room with their weapons drawn and had asked the persons inside the room to leave.
However, officer Burrows denied that the confession to the offence was fabricated and that his superior threatened to kill Josey in the same manner he tried to kill Supt Fernander.
Both Armbrister, 23, of Faith Gardens and Josey, 21, of Balls Alley, face a charge of attempted armed robbery and attempted murder relating to the April 10, 2013 incident.
Armbrister was further charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition – a black and silver Smith and Wesson .45 pistol with 29 .45 bullets.
It is claimed that on the day in question the men, while concerned with others, attempted to cause the death of Supt Fernander. It is also claimed that they tried to rob him while armed with a handgun.
Supt Fernander was shot multiple times in the arm and upper body when two masked, armed men confronted him shortly after he pulled up to his home in the St Vincent Road area.
Supt Fernander was armed at the time, but was not able to return fire.
Both men were arraigned in Magistrate’s Court six days later when they were not required to enter a plea to the first two charges.
Armbrister pleaded not guilty to the firearm and ammunition charges.
Prior to yesterday’s proceedings, the jury had heard evidence from two witnesses in the vicinity of the shooting on the night in question.
The first witness said that around 10pm that night, a tenant came to the door to ask for keys.
The witness, who is not being named for his protection, is a relative of the tenant’s landlord.
“I went upstairs for the keys,” he said, “and upon going to get the keys, I looked outside the room window and I heard two gunshots.”
He said he saw two men run from Supt Fernander’s yard.
The tenant took the witness stand next and told the court: “I was standing in front of the landlord’s door.”
“Then I observed a white car come around the corner at a high rate of speed. Mr Fernander’s car pull in his driveway after that. He had a red Explorer,” the witness said.
“What happened next?” assisting prosecutor Kristan Stubbs asked.
“I heard a scream and then a single shot,” the jury was told.
The witness said when he walked out to the road to see what was going on, “I saw him (Fernander) running into the road and the white car pulled off.”
The witness claimed the car was a white four-door Acura.
Security Footage and Cell Phone
Yesterday, Sgt 1492 Dale Strachan took the witness stand to give evidence about the analysis and examination of two important pieces of evidence retrieved from the scene and in the vicinity of the incident; a blue Blackberry Curve cell phone and security camera footage retrieved from Fernander’s neighbour’s DVR box.
Sgt Strachan said he received permission from the neighhbour to transfer the footage for that night onto a compact disc (CD). The officer said he downloaded a software that allowed him to view the clips obtained from the DVR where in clip #3, he noticed a Ford Explorer headed south at 8:54pm and then another vehicle, believed to be an Acura, headed in the opposite direction.
The jury and court were shown the footage on a large flat-screen monitor where a flash of light could be seen for a short time before the light coloured vehicle, the suspected Acura, drove off.
Sgt Strachan further testified that he unsealed a package he received from officer Moxey that contained the cellphone obtained from the scene of the incident.
The officer said that as the phone was locked, he took the phone apart to retrieve a SIM and SD card. From the latter, he was able to extract several images of a fair-skinned male.
The jury was shown the images of the man dressed in a grey shirt with Oakley glasses over his eyes and plaited hair pulled into one. The man was also wearing gold rings on his hands.
The detective said using a special software, he was able to extract some information about the owner of the phone. The recipient received a text on the day in question that said: “Baby please, it’s me, you know what you doing tomorrow, I want to chill with you Maurice. Aint ga lie.”
Sgt Strachan was cross-examined by Wayne Munroe, Armbrister’s lawyer.
Mr Munroe asked the officer if any outgoing text messages were extracted from the SIM card. The officer said there was.
“There seems to have been a number of incoming texts between April 2 and April 8 and then they all stopped?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes,” Sgt Strachan answered.
Mr Munroe asked if the phone had GPS tracking device built into the phone. However, Sgt Strachan answered that some Blackberry’s do, but he would be unable to determine that because the phone was locked.
Mr Munroe also asked the officer if he saw a white car following Mr Fernander’s vehicle in the footage that he viewed.
“Not from the clips I watched,” the detective said.
Officer Burrows, attached to the Drug Enforcement Unit, took the witness stand next and was questioned by prosecutor Stubbs.
Burrows said that on April 12, 2013, he was on duty when he received certain information from one of his superiors, Inspector Demeritte, whom he accompanied to a medical centre on Collins Avenue.
Upon entering the centre, he and Inspector Demeritte went into the back of the facility to an examination room where they found a physician examining a male.
“Inspector Demeritte inquired of the man of his name and he replied ‘Excel Josey,’” said Officer Burrows.
The officer continued that his superior informed Josey of the complaint against him, cautioned and arrested him in reference to attempted murder and attempted armed robbery.
Officer Burrows claimed that it was at this point that Josey owned up to his involvement in the incident.
“He informed Inspector Demeritte that he and Maurice were in a car on St Vincent following the victim and were going to rob him,” Burrows said.
“When the victim arrived at his residence, they approached him and upon sight of him, Maurice would’ve shot the victim and they both fled from St Vincent.”
“He went on to say they went to Maurice’s home in the Faith Gardens area. Maurice received a phone call from his cousin that police were at Balls Alley looking for him,” the jury was told.
Josey, according to Officer Burrows’ recall of the accused man’s confession, went to sleep and upon waking, realised that Maurice had left and he did the same.
“He contacted his father and told him that he was afraid police would shoot him because of what he had done,” Burrows said.
Josey was then taken to the Wulff Road police station to be booked in before being taken to the Central Detective Unit.
Officer Burrows denied offering Josey promises or using force or threats to get a confession from him. He further denied that any officers did any of those things in his presence.
In cross-examination, Mr Mangra asked the officer if he had had any interaction with Supt Clayton Fernander before April 12, 2013. The officer said he had not.
“Were you part of the investigating team?” Mr Mangra asked. The officer again said “no” and was then asked how he became involved in the arrest despite being attached to a different unit in the police force.
“At the time I was attached to the operations section of DEU, called in from time to time to arrest wanted suspects,” Officer Burrows said.
Officer Burrows then admitted that Josey did not have a wanted bulletin put out for him.
Mr Mangra asked the officer how they gained access to the examination room.
“We knocked on the dorr, said police and walked in,” Burrows answered.
“Isn’t it true you and officers barged in with guns?” the lawyer asked.
“I wouldn’t say barged, but our weapons were drawn,” Burrows said.
Mr Mangra suggested to the officer that his client was never cautioned in that moment, only told that he was “lock up.”
Burrows disagreed with the suggestion.
Mangra further suggested that Officer Demeritte “threatened to kill him in a way he had threatened to kill his boss.”
Burrows disagreed with the suggestion.
The lawyer further suggested that his client’s “confession” never happened.
“It was a fabrication by yourself and Inspector Demeritte,” the lawyer suggested. “No, sir,” Officer Burrows replied.
Vinette Graham-Allen, director of public prosecutions, Neil Braithwaite and Kristan Stubbs are prosecuting the case.
Wayne Munroe is defending Armbrister, assisted by Jomo Campbell.
Justice Carolita Bethell is presiding over the case. The trial continues today.