By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A TEENAGER’S death at the hands of a police officer that sparked the 2010 Bain Town riot was justified, a Coroner’s Court jury ruled yesterday.
The five-member jury unanimously ruled that 19-year-old Bradley Newbold’s shooting death at Corporal Ricardo Rolle’s hands on November 20, 2010 was a lawful killing.
With its verdict, the jury agreed with a police officer’s assertion that Newbold pointed a gun at Cpl Rolle after leading them on a foot chase through a yard on Hospital Lane.
Newbold died of two gunshot wounds to the torso. Based on press reports at the time, his death sparked chaos and anarchy in the Bain Town community.
Police officers and their vehicles were said to have been stoned by members of an angry mob and at least one car was set ablaze. Even news reporters covering the riot were harassed by the angry mob.
The incident was so chaotic that then Member of Parliament for Bain and Grants Town, the late Dr Bernard Nottage, subsequently called for an independent public inquiry into Newbold’s death. At the time, Dr Nottage said referring it to the Coroner’s Court was “not good enough,” nor was even an internal police inquiry.
During the inquest, former Sergeant Trevor Greene said sometime around 12.10pm on the date in question, he and Cpl Rolle were on foot patrol in plainclothes in the Bain Town area. At that time, they were walking west on King Street, approaching Hospital Lane. Cpl Rolle pointed out three men sitting on a wall on the western side of Hospital Lane, Mr Greene said.
Mr Greene said he and his former partner approached the men and identified themselves as police officers, and told them that they were going to be searched for firearms or drugs. After doing so, Mr Greene said he stood back, with his right hand on his waist, as Cpl Rolle conducted the search.
Mr Greene said one of the men, wearing blue jeans and a light-coloured shirt, glanced at his police badge, turned around, jumped the wall and ran.
Mr Greene said Cpl Rolle jumped the wall and gave chase, and he followed. Mr Greene said when he got to the back of the house, he saw the young man clutch his waist, then extend his hand from his waist in Cpl Rolle’s direction. Mr Greene said when the man’s hand was almost fully outstretched was when he noticed what would later be identified as a black, Kel-Tec 9mm Luger pistol.
Mr Greene said when he saw Cpl Rolle headed directly towards the pistol, he drew his service revolver because he feared that his former comrade would have been shot. At that point, Mr Greene said he heard Cpl Rolle say “drop it” to the suspect. Mr Greene said that fearing for his own life, he aimed his service revolver towards the suspect.
At that point, the former officer said he heard a single shot. Fearing that Cpl Rolle had been hit, Mr Greene said he ran even faster towards the other officer. While doing so, he said, he noticed that the suspect’s weapon had dropped on the ground. However, he said the suspect stopped running, picked up the pistol, and then continued running.
Mr Greene said the suspect again pointed the pistol towards him and Cpl Rolle. He said Cpl Rolle ordered the man to drop the weapon a second time, but the suspect instead continued to point the weapon in their direction.
Then, Mr Greene said he heard a second shot. A few seconds later, he said he saw Cpl Rolle fall on top of the suspect while on top of a cesspit.
Mr Greene said as he caught up to Cpl Rolle and the suspect, he noticed that the suspect’s gun had dropped on the cesspit next to his right hand. Mr Greene said because he didn’t think Cpl Rolle saw where the gun dropped, and fearing that the suspect might have retrieved the gun again and shot Cpl Rolle, he ran as fast as he could to reach them.
Mr Greene said when he managed to catch up with them, and whilst training his service revolver on the suspect, latched onto the suspect’s right arm to prevent him from grabbing the gun lying next to him. Mr Greene said he subsequently knocked the gun away from the suspect’s arm.
Mr Green said at that point, he noticed that the suspect’s breathing was “laboured”. He said Cpl Rolle indicated that he was okay, and so he holstered his service revolver and contacted police control room. He said he told police control room what had happened and requested both EMS and police assistance. He said he also transmitted the serial number of the suspect’s pistol to his colleagues.
Mr Greene said while he and Cpl Rolle waited for EMS and police backup, and while looking around, an irate group of some 30 to 40 people, mostly young men, came from “every direction” shouting and cursing. Fearing that he and Cpl Rolle would be mobbed or run over, and not knowing if those people were armed, he said he grabbed the suspect’s gun and told Cpl Rolle that they would have to stand back-to-back.
Mr Greene said as the crowd continued to thicken and advance towards them, he told Cpl Rolle that they would have to move from the suspect’s body. He said he then slipped the gun to Cpl Rolle discreetly and told him to put it in his pocket to secure it. Mr Green said he did so because in the event they were shot at, Cpl Rolle, being the fastest, would have been able to escape with the weapon.
Mr Greene said rather than cause a confrontation by trying to secure the scene and consequently ward off the mob, he and Cpl Rolle were forced to leave Newbold’s body and move to the porch of the apartment building on the property. After that, he said they went back onto Hospital Lane, unable to ever secure the scene.
Mr Greene said about 15 to 20 minutes later, an ambulance and police assistance arrived. But by that time, he and Cpl Rolle had already moved from the suspect who was being “crowded by just about everybody who was around there.”
Mr Greene said Cpl Rolle handed the gun that the suspect was wielding to another officer before “everything else got out of control” and he and Cpl Rolle left the scene.
Meanwhile, Newbold’s lifelong friend Ryan Fernander claimed that neither Cpl Rolle nor Mr Greene identified themselves as police officers when they initially approached him, his younger cousin, and the deceased on the date in question.
Instead, all Mr Fernander said he heard was the order “don’t move” from the two men whom he said came “out of nowhere” and were in plainclothes. He said because he didn’t know who it was, or what to expect, he remained stationary.
However, Mr Fernander said Newbold opted to flee, something he said he found to be “somewhat” strange at the time. Mr Fernander said although he couldn’t say whether Newbold ran because he might have had a previous history with the officers, his friend ran “like he trying to get out”.
Contrary to Mr Greene’s assertion that his friend was shot by Cpl Rolle in the heat of the foot chase, and after he pointed a weapon at the officers, Mr Fernander claimed the officer got down on one knee, lined his friend up in his sights and shot him as if it was target practice.
Mr Fernander said despite there being rumours at the time that Newbold had a gun, he did not see a gun, and neither did he see Newbold brandishing a firearm.
Cpl Rolle was represented by lawyer Bjorn Ferguson. Damien White represented Newbold’s family. Crown attorney Anishka Missick marshalled the evidence in the matter.