THE State has agreed to pay $750,000 to the widow and daughter of a fisherman who was shot in his head by a Coast Guard officer while at sea six years ago.
Shazad Mohammed, 25, of Francis Lalla Road, Charlieville, died on August 4, 2006—six days after the shooting incident in the Gulf of Paria on the night of July 29, 2006.
Mohammed's shooting and subsequent death sparked several days of protest by residents of his community who called for justice.
The Coast Guard claimed Mohammed tried to ram their boat when he was shot. Two people, Adesh Ramkissoon and Ishwar Ryait, who were with Mohammed in the pirogue which belonged to his father, Fareed, said the shooting was unprovoked.
The Coast Guard's Board of Inquiry announced that it concluded there was no "premeditated or deliberate intention" to harm Mohammed.
Attorney Anand Ramlogan who, at that time, represented the family along with attorneys Kevin Ratiram and Imran Khan, said then the finding was biased and one-sided and designed to do damage control and salvage the poor image of the nation's protective services.
"The enquiry was clearly designed to exonerate the Coast Guard instead of confronting the clear excessive use of force on three young, unarmed fishermen who were simply trying to earn an honest living by fishing," Ramlogan had said.
Coast Guard officer Quincy Allum was charged on September 1, 2006, with murdering Mohammed. On May 2, 2007, then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Geoffrey Henderson brought a halt to the preliminary enquiry on the basis that the evidence from witnesses for the State strongly suggested 25-year-old Allum shot Mohammed in self-defence.
Henderson said the officers believed Mohammed and his friends "appeared to be trying to evade arrest".
He said Ryait, in a statement, said when Mohammed's boat was intercepted and boarded by Allum, the officer "tried to switch off Shazad engine and when he stretch he hand, Shazad tried to push back his hand. Shazad just hit it away".
Ramkissoon gave a similar account.
Henderson concluded, based on the witnesses' statements, it is highly unlikely the prosecution would have been able to successfully disprove "the Coast Guard did not kill Shazad in self-defence, nor will it be able to show that the accused did not honestly believe that he was under some threatened or actual attack that required immediate defensive action".
Mohammed's wife, Nalini Ramkissoon-Mohammed, had a lawsuit filed on her behalf by attorney Sheldon Ramanan on August 29, 2007.
Ramkissoon-Mohammed contended that Mohammed, without any warning and/or good or lawful reason, was negligently shot in the head by Allum.
When the matter came up for hearing before Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in the High Court in the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday, attorney Jagdeo Singh, who represented the Office of the Attorney General, told the court the State was accepting liability for Mohammed's death.
He said a consent order was signed by Ratiram, who represented Mohammed's family.
Apart from the $750,000 in compensation, the State will also foot the bill for the legal costs incurred by Mohammed's family in bringing the lawsuit.