‘JUSTIFIED’ RULING IN TRIPLE KILLING: Jury says shootings by police in Blair case appropriate


Tribune Staff Reporter


A CORONER’S Court jury ruled on Friday that law enforcement officers were justified in killing three men at a Blair Estates mansion in 2019, one of the deadliest single instances of a police-involved killing in the country’s history.

The finding bucks the recent trend of jurors making a homicide by manslaughter verdict in such cases and is one of the few justified homicide rulings police have got in the last year.

Police killed Tony Jamal “Foolish” Penn Smith, Valentino “T-Boy” Pratt, and Trevor “Coopz” Cooper, Jr, on Commonwealth Avenue in the early morning of May 17, 2019.

 Twelve police officers and three defence force officers were the subject of the inquest. 

 The officers appeared tense awaiting the jury’s finding, but relaxed after the decision was read in court.

 Meanwhile, relatives of the three men called the result “unfair”.

 Outside the courtroom after the finding, Victoria Roberts, Valentino Pratt’s mother, said the finding pained her.

 “I am hurt, I am very hurt,” she said. “Justified to shoot someone 28 times and more and it was justified? I am hurt, very hurt.”

 Jancimae Smith, Tony Smith’s mother, also expressed dissatisfaction.

 “I feel like it wasn’t fair, but God has the last say,” she said. “In spite of what went on, God has the last say.” 

 Trevor Cooper, Sr, the father of Cooper, Jr, complained that the inquest ended prematurely. He said lawyers were not allowed to cross-examine a firearm expert on the weapons officers used before the matter was called to a close later that afternoon. 

 “I think it was unfairly, unjustly done,” he said. “Based on the evidence that was requested we didn’t get sufficient evidence to really move forward in an adequate process. At the end of the day it was rushed, whereas we were supposed to have cross-examination of the ballistic report and all of a sudden she jumped to closing the matter. I feel like that that was programmed.” 

 Coroner’s Court inquests do not determine criminal liability, but adverse findings against the police could spark criminal prosecutions. The justified homicide finding likely brings an end to the matter. 

 Earlier Friday, Inspector Henrington Curry of the police firearms section testified that his office received 11 of the 15 guns officers used in this shooting. He said of 11 weapons, only three were found to have been fired on the day of the incident.

 The families gasped in disbelief at the size of the M4 rifles Inspector Curry displayed in court. 

 Coroner Turnquest Deveaux had previously admonished police for their delay in collecting the firearms.

 During the closing remarks of Ciji Smith Curry, one of the lawyers for the deceased, she noted that the gun found on Pratt’s left hand was resting on top of his curled fingers and that Pratt’s mother testified that her son was right-handed. 

 She referred to the testimony of pathologist Dr Caryn Sands, who said Pratt could have got his injuries while lying down. 

 Romona Farquharson Seymour, another lawyer for the estates, highlighted what she called deficiencies in the police investigation in her closing remarks. She said police never gave a clear picture of what happened and that there was no clear lead investigator in the matter. 

 She told jurors to ignore allegations that Smith was a “drug man” and focus on whether he did anything that night to justify his death.

 Ryzard Humes, the last attorney for the estates, noted there was no arrest warrant for Cooper the night he was killed and said Cooper was only visiting from Grand Bahama when he was shot in the garage.

 All three attorneys noted that none of the men had their hands swabbed for potential firearm analysis. 

 K Melvin Munroe, the attorney for the officers, used his closing remarks to refute the arguments of the other lawyers.

 Mr Munroe asked why Frantina Wilson, Pratt’s girlfriend at the time of the shooting, wasn’t killed if she was in the room at the time of his death. 

 He claimed Ms Smith fled the room just before Pratt opened fire on police and was killed.

 Mr Munroe also said police were acting on a search warrant for a wanted murder suspect.

 He rejected claims that officers went to the mansion out for blood. He said one of the men on the warrant survived that night because he posed no threat to the officers. He said the three men were killed because of their actions and that the police only defended themselves.

 He said officers are what stand between this country and anarchy.

 Angelo Whitfield marshalled the evidence.

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