Two Mobile Reserve cops arrested, denied bail
TWO Kingston-based policemen, alleged to be part of a 'police death squad', were yesterday denied bail when they appeared in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on charges of murder.
The lawmen, Constable Shannon Allen and Sergeant Mario Taylor, who were stationed at Mobile Reserve, were taken into custody yesterday and charged with the February 28 murder of Adolphus Reader in May Pen, Clarendon.
The case was initially reported as a fatal shooting, but investigations carried out by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) reportedly found that the incident was part of a series of unlawful killings that were being undertaken by the police.
INDECOM's head, Terrence Williams, in outlining the allegations yesterday in court, said the constabulary had reported that police officers went to accost Reader when he allegedly pointed a firearm at them and was shot and killed.
Williams told the court that an eyewitness reported that the policemen went into a room and were engaged in a conversation with Reader before killing him. A Browning pistol was allegedly recovered from Reader, but INDECOM is contending that the firearm was planted on the victim as spent shells that were recovered from another shooting incident in May Pen involving the police matched the pistol that was recovered. In that shooting incident Adif Washington was allegedly shot and killed while he was at the May Pen Hospital by two masked men. Two policemen were later charged with his death following forensic evidence, INDECOM said.
Williams, after outlining the allegations, submitted an affidavit to Senior Magistrate Judith Pusey, which noted that bail was being opposed on the grounds that the officers might interfere with the witnesses if they are granted bail, and that the witnesses were unwilling to cooperate while the policemen were free, and also that the policemen may abscond bail.
In court yesterday, attorney Carolyn Reid-Cameron, who represents both men, said her clients had a constitutional right to be granted bail on the presumption of innocence, and that the primary consideration of the court should be whether or not they would return to court if bail was granted.
The lawyer, at the same time, dismissed a suggestion by INDECOM that the policemen were a flight risk and would interfere with the witnesses if they were given bail, saying it was contrary to her clients' behaviour.
"The incident took place on the 28th of February and my client knew that the matter was being investigated by INDECOM, but they remained in Jamaica and did not seek to flee and remain at their work," the lawyer said. She added that there were no reports of the accused policemen interfering with any witness.
Reid-Cameron also told the court that the matter was also in Coroner's Court but that she was informed that INDECOM made an application before a judge in chambers to take the matter out of the court and raised concerns about the matter being dealt with in two different jurisdictions.
She also told the court that there was no connection between her clients and the police officers who were charged in relation to unlawful police killings in May Pen. "There is a gap and there is no direct link between these men and the May Pen shootings," she said. She said, too, that firearms were transient and can be bought, sold, or borrowed or rented.
The magistrate told her that the issue of the firearm and its connection to the other shooting cannot be brushed aside. "It is the kind of coincidence that caused everyone to raise their eyebrow, you can't see it as a gap," she said.
Williams later told the court that there was no attempt by INDECOM to have the matter at the Coroner's Court dismissed as by law the matter in a Coroner's Court is automatically cancelled once the matter takes on a criminal nature.
RM Pusey, after hearing both sides, told the court that she has to consider the safety of the witnesses in an effort to minimise the risk to them and to ensure that due process of the court is carried out in the matter. She then refused the men bail.
The magistrate then set the case for preliminary hearing on June 23, when the other eight police officers alleged to be part of the death squad are to return to court, despite objections from Cameron-Reid for the matter not to be joined together.