Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pastor: Turn away from crime

Funeral for three slain by police

Rev Kirby Jackson yesterday challenged all the young men of this nation to exhibit true strength and turn away from lives of crime and criminality. 

Jackson was speaking during the funeral service for David “Junior” Baker, 28; his nephew, Kareem Edwards, 19; and friend, Reuben Richins, 23, the three men who were shot and killed by police in central Trinidad on August 17.

The service was held yesterday afternoon at La Horquetta Gospel Foundation, on La Horquetta Boulevard.

“I’m fed up of how our society is going and what is glorified in this country and what is believed to be acceptable. I am saddened by the way our lives have become such that when people die nowadays, there no longer seems to be that sense of sadness we used to have. This is because people now believe automatically that whoever was killed had that coming to them. And, in this case, that the boys who died were not good men,” he said. 

“Now I am not here to discuss if the police were right or wrong in this situation, but I am saying that it is time to change. Young men in this society, if you are involved in criminality you are on a pathway that will lead to destruction. And this is not something that is limited to this community, it is  something that is spreading like a parasite throughout the nation and the only thing that stands in its way is us. So we cannot any longer turn a blind eye to the society that we live in. We need to stop glorifying negativity. Our young men must know that being disrespectful and joining gangs is wrong. And in the same vein, our police officers must know that they are not supposed to be judge and jury, but we must let the process of law take its course.” 

Rev Jackson also noted that people need to understand that because of the current state of affairs in this country, those in the protective services were working in a “tough environment” where they weren’t sure what they were going to face whenever they went out on patrols or even if they would be coming back home to their families when they were done. 

“This leads some officers to believe that they must fight fire with fire, but all that is being created is more anger in our people and the cycle of violence continues and we will have more and more funerals like this. It is not their fault, but they too have a role to play. Just as we have a role to play, and I want young people to understand that you can be whatever you choose to be, no matter your upbringing. There is still honour in working hard, in being fathers, in being here for your loved ones and friends, but it must be a choice you make, otherwise we will always have this cycle of crying mothers, fatherless children, relatives wondering what went wrong. Young people, it is time to cancel your trip of rebellion and turn your lives around,” Jackson said. 

Relatives of the three men gave passionate eulogies in which they recalled the things they would remember most about them, including their caring nature, love for football and their “lady’s man” attitudes.

 Songs and poems were performed in their names and, several times throughout the service, family members had to be consoled as they broke down in grief. 

Based on reports, Baker had recently moved out of La Horquetta and was staying in Freeport. 

A police report on the killings stated that officers of the North Eastern Division Task Force, led by Inspector Roger Alexander and Cpl Sunil Bharath, went to a house at Kurban Ali Drive, Calcutta No 1 in Freeport in search of Baker on the night of August 17.

Police had six outstanding warrants in Baker’s name, for murder and gun-related offences. 

The report added that as police were entering the house, the trio opened fire and the officers returned fire, fatally wounding them.

Police said they recovered two bullet-proof vests, a .38 revolver and a .45 pistol. 

Since then, relatives of the three deceased have disputed the reports of the police, claiming that they were killed in cold blood.

They noted that Richins and Edwards had no criminal records and relatives believe they will never get justice for the killings. 

They also claimed that all of the men’s money and valuables went missing after police raided the house.