HOURS after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced a limited State of Emergency in effect in crime hotspots, police shot and killed two of three armed bandits in Arima yesterday.
Northern Division officers yesterday described the actions of the bandits as total disregard for the rule of law since the incident occurred a stone's throw away from the Arima Police Station.
Police said they recovered two high-powered rifles and a Glock .45 pistol from the dead men. A third suspect, who attempted to disguise himself as an employee of Goodwood Racing Service, was subsequently detained by police.
The guns recovered are a Glock 21 Astra .45 pistol loaded with 20 rounds of .45 ammunition; a Fabrique National SLR 7.62 rifle loaded with 20 live rounds of 7.62 ammunition; and a M&P 15 5.56 rifle with three magazines containing 105 rounds of 5.56 ammunition.
The incident occurred shortly after 7 a.m. at Green Street and up to late yesterday, the two dead men remained unidentified, police said. A 29-year-old suspect of St Joseph, who was held at the scene, remained in police custody. Officers said the suspect has refused to co-operate with them.
A civilian, identified as Raymond Garcia of Temple Street, Arima, who was passing in the area at the time of the incident, was shot on the right side of his body and remained in stable condition at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex yesterday. Police were unable to say whether Garcia was shot by a bullet fired by their colleagues or the bandits.
There were four members of staff and one customer at the racing pool when the suspects entered.
Assistant Commissioner in charge of the North-East Division, Eulyna Julius, said three officers from the Arima CID responded to a report of a robbery in progress at the racing pool.
When the officers arrived in a marked police vehicle, the suspects, who were inside the establishment, opened fire on the officers, causing them to flee the vehicle and return fire. Officers from the Northern Division Task Force quickly arrived in the scene and a shootout continued between police and the suspects.
Two of them were found nursing gunshot injuries about their bodies and were taken to the Arima District Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival. A third suspect, who police said tried to blend in with employees of the business place, was identified as one of the bandits and taken into custody.
Police said the suspects entered the business place and demanded employees open a vault which contained more than $300,000. The employees, officers added, had no access to the vault and were later relieved of $30,000 which represented their float. The cash was later recovered scattered on the floor after the shootout with police.
The marked police vehicle, a white Nissan B15 car used by the suspects and several nearby buildings were hit during the shootout. Police said the B15, which belonged to a relative of one of the suspects, was reported stolen by the owner at the Arima Police Station.
"This is what we are up against. This is the type of high-powered weapons that we police officers have to face-off with by criminals," Supt Brebnor said as he showed the weapons to members of the media at the Arima Police Station.
Crime scene investigators took more than five hours to process the scene which was littered with close to 100 projectiles.
Among the officers at the scene were ACP Raymond Craig, Snr Supt David Abraham, Supt Leroy Brebnor, Acting Supt Samuel Bullen, ASP Randolph Boyce, Insp Ramnaresh Seecharan, Ramrattan Jugmohan and Sgts Wayne Baptiste, Basdeo Sinanan, Vetus Hernandez, Ganga Singh and Nafiz Mohammed. Boyce is continuing investigations into the incident.