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Taxpayers to pay million$ for another ‘unjustified’ shooting

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/Court Desk Co-ordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 11, 2014    

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TAXPAYERS will again have to pick up the tabs for another "unjustified" shooting by a police officer that left a brother dead and another injured.

"In the circumstances of this case, it is my view that Constable [Hector] Clarke negligently caused injury to Mr Troy Huggins and death to Mr Ralston Easy," Justice Carol Lawrence-Beswick wrote in her 30-page ruling on a lawsuit regarding the incident.

Lawrence-Beswick awarded damages in the sum of $7,349,100 to Huggins for pain and suffering and psychological disability, among other things. Regarding Easy, his estate was awarded $7,653,680.

Both men were shot on November 17, 2006 while standing outside the gate of their aunt's house in Shenton, St Catherine, while awaiting a taxi to Linstead to purchase food.

In the subsequent lawsuit, Huggins said the car drove by before turning back. Huggins said a male inside the vehicle shouted "Police" and asked where they were going before the shooting started.

But in his defence filed in the matter, Clarke said he was approached by two men, one armed with what appeared to be a shotgun, as he slowed his vehicle to negotiate a pothole along the Knollis main road. According to Clarke, the man fired at him and he lost control of the vehicle which crashed into an embankment. He said one of the men approached the vehicle and he heard what sounded like gunshots and he returned the fire.

However, Lawrence-Beswick highlighted in her ruling that neither Clarke nor his vehicle suffered any damage from the supposed blasts from the shotgun, which he said was close to him when it was fired. No gunpowder residue was found on the outside of the vehicle, and results of a swab of the men's hands were not made available.

Additionally, the justice outlined, no shell casings were found inside the car or outside where a man reportedly brandishing the 'shotgun' fired from, despite a thorough search by the police. No weapon was recovered.

Lawrence-Beswick, relying on the results of Easy's post-mortem, said in her ruling that she was satisfied that the balance of probabilities was that Easy was shot while his back was turned to Clarke and at some distance away.

She noted, too, that no charge was brought against the surviving brother.

Further doubt was cast on Clarke's credibility, the justice noted, when he testified during the lawsuit that he quickly left the scene, went to the station and waited for some time for assistance to arrive to accompany him back to the scene. This evidence ran counter to the version he gave the Bureau of Special Investigations in 2007, in which he said he stayed on the scene of the shooting and called for assistance.

These factors added to Lawrenec-Beswick's finding of negligence on Clarke's part.

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