SIX years ago, officers of the North-Eastern Division Task Force (NEDTF), led by Inspector Roger Alexander, shot and killed Magnus “Jotto” Charles and Neil Eligon.
According to police reports, on August 20, 2008, Charles, 23, of Pipiol Road, Santa Cruz, and Eligon, 28, of Diego Martin, were shot dead.
NEDTF officers, in their statements, said they were conducting roadblock exercises in Lover’s Lane, San Juan, when Charles got out of a car and started shooting at them while Eligon remained seated behind the wheel.
The officers shot back and both men were killed.
The officers claimed to have found a .45 calibre semi-automatic pistol, and the car being driven by Eligon was a stolen one.
The post-mortem report stated Eligon was shot in the legs, stomach, arms and chest.
A former official at the Forensic Science Centre told the Sunday Express when Eligon’s body was brought to “Forensics”, “his arms were lifted in the air for examination and bullet wounds were noticeable”.
“I will never forget that. The wounds were consistent as though he held up his arms in surrender,” the official said.
The official said a public uproar must be made to ensure that weapons used by police officers during civilian killings are sent for ballistic testing. He said having spent years employed at Forensics, he is of the belief more needs to be done in probing such killings.
Meanwhile, Eligon’s relatives have never accepted the police’s version and maintain the car belonged to his father and was not stolen. They further said Eligon was merely giving Charles a “lift”.
Relatives sued the State, seeking compensation.
Sources told the Sunday Express the assessment hearing is listed for July 8 and 9 at the Port of Spain High Court, and the judge on the previous occasion issued summons for the officers and Alexander to be present in court.
When the Sunday Express contacted Eligon’s relatives last Friday afternoon, they refused to comment.
Eligon’s relatives are among many citizens seeking answers to the circumstances surrounding the shooting deaths of individuals by tactical officers attached to the NEDTF, led by Alexander.
Statistics compiled by the Sunday Express reveal from 2006 to present, this task force accounts for 35 individuals being shot dead.
Deemed as a major crime hotspot, the North-Eastern Division (NED) encompasses Morvant, Blanchisseusse, Maracas Bay, Santa Cruz, San Juan and Barataria.
Alexander has at least 17 years’ service. He was attached to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and was transferred in 2004 to the NEDTF, which he now heads.
Alexander, who is also vice-president of the Police Social and Welfare Association, was featured in a documentary by Vice News, titled Corruption, Cocaine and Murder in Trinidad, where he took journalist Danny Gold on tour of various crime spots earlier this year.
Though the NED has one of the highest crime rates, inclusive of murder, it is also a division which lists the most complaints about circumstances surrounding alleged shoot-outs with police, and also the division with the most complaints against police officers attached to this tactical unit.
With investigations still ongoing and some dormant, several of these killings have seen families of the deceased men give up hope anything will come out of the investigations since their relatives had tainted pasts.
Several autopsy results obtained by the Sunday Express show disparities in what officers of this unit recalled in their statements.
One such report was the 2008 shooting death of Jason Boatswain.
Boatswain, 24, alias “Dada”, of Second Caledonia, Morvant, was shot dead by officers attached to NEDTF. Police reports stated on February 4, 2008, the officers, led by Alexander, were patrolling Cipriani Avenue, Second Caledonia, when Boatswain shot at them from a distance.
The officers shot back and Boatswain died on the spot.
In their report, the officers claimed Boatswain was at a lengthy distance shooting at them, but the post-mortem report states two of the gunshot wounds on Boatswain were inflicted at “close range, due to the extent of tissue damage from those wounds”.
Contacted on Tuesday, June 25, by the Sunday
Express, Alexander was asked whether he appeared as a subject of an inquest in any of the 35 shootings.
He said he appeared as both a subject and witness, at the end of which the coroner ruled he did no wrong.
Asked to identify such cases, he said: “I can’t recall. Several times Yup! Yup! Yup!...those situations are stressful, I can’t recall.”
The Sunday Express pointed out to Alexander that based on autopsy reports obtained, his officers’ version of what transpired contradicted what the scientific evidence stated.
Using the example of the killing of Petit Bourg resident Marvin Trim on February 1, 2008, the Sunday Express pointed out according to statements lodged by him (Alexander), officers went to Trim’s home to serve a warrant and were shot at. Officers returned fire from outside the house and Trim was found dead in the house.
The post-mortem revealed Trim received gunshot wounds about the body “at close range, due to the extent of tissue damage from the wounds”.
Asked to respond to this, Alexander said: “Conflicting to who? Conflicting to you (laughter); who is it conflicting to?”
Pressed for a response, he said: “There are a lot of versions of what happened.”
The Sunday Express asked if he maintained the shootings were done above board?
“Every time you get into a shooting with a person, then we would have been shot and that’s not the case. We have held several persons with firearms. Is only when persons confront the police, they invite their own deaths and that’s the only time they have been shot,” he said.
Asked about allegations he was closely affiliated with a well-known criminal element in the Maracas area who was held during the 2011 State of Emergency, Alexander said: “Anybody could prove that, send it to me.”
The question was repeated.
“Anybody could prove that? Do they have a family tree or something? Let them prove that,” he replied.
The question was again repeated, to which Alexander said: “I think the paper should do an enquiry; what do you think?”
The Sunday Express pointed out his response was not to the question, to which he said: “I am from south Trinidad. I have no linkages with anyone from north. I deal with anybody, whether it be criminal, pastor, priest, educated, non-educated, people who are sane and otherwise. I will tell you something, the priest cannot tell me what is happening in the criminal underworld.”