Police shooting of blind man in 2018 ruled a justifiable homicide


Tribune Court Reporter


A Coroner’s Court jury has ruled that the fatal shooting of a blind man on a motorcycle in 2018 by a police officer pursuing an allegedly armed suspect, was a justifiable homicide.

Acting Coroner’s Court Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux presided over the inquest that ruled on what transpired on the night of January 26, 2018 that led to the death of 36-year-old Courtney Elvardo Thompson.

It is said that on the night in question Sergeant S. Braynen shot Thompson in the back of the neck as he rode a motorcycle leading to the deceased falling on the road on Plantol Street off East Street.

Officers report that they opened fire on the motorcycle after the driver brandished a firearm at them.

In previous testimony from Dr Caryn Sands, forensic pathologist at PMH, the official cause of death for the victim was ruled as a gunshot wound to the neck.

Elvardo Thompson and Lawrence Thompson, the victim’s son and brother respectively, both testified that Elvardo, while driving the motorcycle on the night of the incident, never had a gun. However, while they both said that the victim’s son never took his hands off the bike handles, Elvardo contradicted Lawrence’s testimony by saying that he never saw him the night of the shooting.

Sergeant Braynen was represented by Attorney K Melvin Munroe. The interests of the estate of the deceased were being represented by Joel Seymour. This trial did not determine civil or criminal liability.

During closing arguments Mr Munroe stated that it was the job of this jury to determine the circumstances behind the police shooting of Courtney Thompson. In addition to pointing out the contradictions in the victim’s families testimony, Mr Munroe further said that as the officers were responding to an alleged armed suspect Sgt Braynen was “justified” in using deadly force.

“You’ve heard the evidence of both officers who gave similar accounts of what took place,” Mr Munroe said. “All of their accounts of what took place were confirmed by the evidence of Elvardo Thompson (the victim’s son) with the exception of him saying he had a firearm. And let’s face it, who would admit to having an illegal firearm, if they were not caught with it in the act?”

“The evidence of Lawrence Thompson (the victim’s brother) was clearly contradicted by Elvardo Thompson and should not even be considered,” Mr Munoe added. “At its highest, accepting the evidence of the officers, I would assume members of the jury to change the shoes that you have on and put on the officers' shoes who went out doing their duties, called to a location to persons who were reported to be armed with a firearm, to capture and confront armed individuals. The evidence of the pathologist concerning the deceased being shot to the right side of the neck is consistent with the driver of the motorbike using his right hand to point a gun at the officers. It is clear that the same side that the driver was facing the police, is the same side the passenger would have been facing on that motorcycle.

“Now wearing the shoes of the officer, what would you do if faced with an armed threat? Should you wait to be shot or defend your life? If you would accept that you would defend your life, I ask you to come back with a verdict of justifiable homicide.”

Mr Seymour maintained that the victim’s son did not have a firearm and that the police had no grounds to fire on an unarmed man.

There was a palpable sense of tension from the victim’s gathered family, including his brother and son, as they awaited the jury’s verdict.

A five-person jury found that Sgt Braynen had committed a justifiable homicide in pursuit of a presumed armed suspect.

After hearing the verdict the victim’s brother Lawrence broke down in tears.

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