By Khrisna Russell
Deputy Chief Reporter
IN THE face of serious allegations levelled by relatives of three men fatally shot by police on Friday, Acting Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle urged people to give officers the opportunity to have their say in court before conclusions are drawn.
In an exclusive interview on Sunday, several relatives of Jamaal Penn, Valentino Pratt and Trevor Cooper questioned the manner in which police carried out their operation in a home off the Eastern Road because six children were present.
The relatives, who were also inside the house during the police-involved killing, alleged that none of the men fired at officers, contradicting police reports that there was an exchange of gunfire. It was also alleged that the same officers who shot the three men were investigating the incident.
The acting commissioner denied the latter claim. He urged those relatives with information to speak with police.
“They are not,” the acting commissioner said when he was asked about relatives’ claim that the police shooters were among the officers investigating. “The officers that were involved in the shooting incident are not a part of the investigation.
“They are not conducting that investigation (and) they have nothing to do with that investigation. All of the evidence, as I am aware, has been submitted to the forensic lab where they need to go.”
Asked if the killing of three people by police in one incident was an extraordinary event, Acting Commissioner Rolle said: “I’m not certain that this is the first time that it has happened, but I do not wish to comment because I was not there and in fairness to the officers concerned, people should give them the opportunity to have their say in court.
“The court hearing is going to be open so I don’t know that it’s fair for me to comment on stuff like that.”
He was first asked to respond to concerns from relatives of the men that the operation could have been carried out differently taking into account the presence of children and claims that police were not fired upon.
To this, the acting commissioner said: “What I would say is that if any of the family members who may have some information, they can come into the Central Detective Unit and we would have them interviewed with whatever information that they can offer and we would be more than happy to entertain them.
“But I’m not inclined to be discussing the veracity of, or confirm or deny any kind of information in the media. The police are conducting an investigation into it and there will be an inquest at the end of the day.
“So the proper thing to do would be if they have information would be to bring it to the police and let us conduct the interviews and all the information would be forwarded to the Coroner’s Court.”
On Sunday, a young boy who was present said that one of the three men killed by police on Friday pleaded with officers not to shoot because children were in the house.
When officers stormed the sprawling pink and white house just off the Eastern Road in the early morning raid, there were six children inside, The Tribune was told.
Two of them, with the permission of relatives, gave a chilling account of what unfolded when the armed officers entered the house where they slept. The Tribune has decided not to reveal any identifying factors related to the boys so as to preserve their identities.
“He looked at me and took his last breath and mummy was crying,” the younger of the two boys said. “The police came and he did say, ‘don’t shoot, my children in here’.
“He was saying don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the older boy said. “He was holding me and police start saying, ‘put the boy down’, so he put me down and the police come up the stairs and round him and shoot him in his back.
“And I had blood on my clothes ‘cause I fell down in the blood on the floor.”
On Friday, authorities said the men were killed in an exchange of gunfire.
According to Chief Superintendent Solomon Cash, police discovered 22lbs of marijuana and two additional firearms afterwards in a search of the property. In total, police said three weapons were recovered.
At the time, several people were arrested.
Police said this was the result of a manhunt operation in the area to locate a wanted suspect for a recent homicide and recent shootings in New Providence.
Officers were able to enter the property because they were granted a search warrant, CSP Cash told reporters.