FIRE POWER: Gangsters brandish new high-tech guns in the Laventille area in late June.
Gangsters’ firepower greater than that of cops
Mark Bassant CCN Senior Multimedia Investigative Journalist
GANGSTERS are brandishing far superior high-tech weapons than the police and other law enforcement agencies in this country.
Photographs obtained by TV6’s news investigative team from well-placed intelligence sources show three young men posing with these weapons.
Two of the men are holding two of the guns in their hands, while the next man with a thick gold chain is holding one in his hand.
In another photograph the man with the gold chain is sitting on a rock and has two guns on his lap and two in his hands. All the guns in the picture appear spanking new.
These photographs were taken in late June this year in the Laventille area and have raised major concerns in law enforcement circles as they grapple with the homicide rate that has escalated in this area in the last two months.
Sources at the police Crime and Problem Analysis Branch said at least 85 per cent of the homicides for the year are gun-related.
The reason for this mounting concern is the firepower that these gangsters are packing. The guns in the pictures are no ordinary guns. They are in fact AR-15 guns. This semi-automatic weapon in the hands of proven criminals can do serious damage.
Allison Hamilton, assistant secretary of the Trinidad Rifle Association, who has expertise about these weapons shared his insight. “What I know is that they are used by the US army and a lot of other armies around the world so they are serious weapons of war. For weapons like that to be in the hands of people on the street is a frightening situation.”
The AR-15’s firing capacity lives up to its menacing appearance. This semi-automatic weapon fires one round per pull of the trigger before reloading itself. So while it cannot unleash a hail of bullets like a fully automatic weapon, it can fire as quickly as the gunman can pull the trigger.
This was in fact the exact weapon used by alleged shooter James Holmes in the Colorado theatre shooting at the premiere of the Dark Knight on July 20 last year in which 12 people were killed and more than 70 injured.
“We have tangible evidence to suggest the gangsters in the hills of Laventille are using these weapons to zone in on targets in the East Port of Spain area,” the source said.
Residents along Nelson and Duncan Streets also claim that while they are out in the yard among the buildings they are shot at, and even showed bullet hole impressions left in the walls. “Children are playing here sometimes and they start to shoot at us,” said one woman who didn’t want to be named.
Several gun experts online describe this weapon as “rugged, reliable, portable and accurate”.
Intelligence police sources say gangsters here use two different types of ammunition with the AR-15, with either one having deadly consequences.
“The .556 have something like a .22 projectile and .762 have something like a 9mm projectile, the effective distance of the .762 is a lot further than the .556 but both are equally damaging to its target,”explained Hamilton.
The fragmentation of these ammunition can do greater damage to humans internally, travelling at a higher velocity, Hamilton pointed out.
We showed the photographs of the high powered rifles to acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams who appeared taken aback by the weapons.
“Those weapons hitting the streets of Trinidad and Tobago also provide this kind of shocking impact to me having to lead an organisation where my officers are out there and have to be confronted with that kind of fire power by criminal elements,” he said.
A testimony to the Commissioner’s words came in May this year following the John John protests. Intelligence sources revealed to TV6 News that gangsters warned police not to venture up the tracks and other areas since they would be “sniped” by shooters.
To date, according to Williams, the police have recovered 232 firearms and though he views this as a high number, in his books it is still not enough.
In fact, in police gun seizures for the year they never once came upon a weapon like the AR-15,Williams indicated. Intelligence sources are convinced these specific weapons are not only coming from South America but also directly from the USA, since these kind of weapons can be easily broken down and concealed for shipment.
The mere fact that the police aren’t able to find these guns is worrisome and terrifying said the top cop. “The critical thing when we look at weapons like those is about getting them off the streets because weapons like those could hurt this country big time, the flow of blood which can be generated through the use of anyone of those weapons could be massive and disastrous,” said Williams as he shifted uneasily in his chair.
But the question really is how these guns are getting into the country and what’s the deal on the streets?
Williams said they are planning to tighten up security at the sea ports and airports as they attempt to clamp down on contraband entering the country.
But one crime boss along the East West corridor speaking to us on the condition that he concealed his identity, did not sugar coat his underworld dealings with guns,drugs and other nefarious activities.
“We have AR-15s, AKs, nines we dealing with. We don’t sell our gun, that is to protect we self and we turf.”
• TOMORROW: PART 2—The crime boss tells us his tale of gun running, crooked cops and why the gang war will never end.