Ali, 33, a businessman of Mcshine Street, Sangre Grande, who was celebrating his recent marriage at Cheers Bar, was an innocent victim caught up in a shootout between two bandits and off-duty policeman PC Hamray Lackraj, who was also celebrating with the Alis. One of the bandits was also killed in the incident.
The shootout started when two bandits entered the bar at Ramoutar Street at about 12.15 am and announced a hold-up with one bandit standing guard at the door while the other moved among the patrons.
The bandit at the door recognised Lackraj and shouted at him, “Redman, don’t move!” However, Lackraj pulled out his service weapon at the bandits and it was then that bullets started flying in the confines of the small bar. One of the bandits was shot and killed instantly.
In the melee, a bullet struck Ali but up to yesterday it was uncertain if the bullet which killed him came from the bandits guns or from the policeman’s weapon.
Customers scampered for safety and Ali’s frantic relatives rushed him to the nearby Sangre Grande District Hospital where he was pronounced dead-on-arrival.
It was a tragic end to a night filled with merriment at the bar where the Ali family was celebrating Abdul’s December nuptials to Tricia and the return of his mother Zorida from a lengthy trip abroad.
Ali was the owner of Ali’s Poultry Depot at Picton Road, Sangre Grande. An eyewitness to the shooting told Newsday that 14 members of Ali’s family had earlier picked up his mother Zorida from Piarco International Airport following her arrival into the country.
Ali had not seen his mother in six months and the group decided to have a drink at Cheers Bar.
On arrival at the bar, they decided to occupy tables at the right side of the bar and were toasting Abdul’s two-month marriage when the bandits, one of whom wore a ski-mask and the other a bandana (large handkerchief) entered the bar and announced a hold-up.
The bandit wearing the ski-mask walked up to bar owner Terra Noel and ordered her to hand over cash.
The bandit who was keeping watch at the entrance of the bar, recognised Lackraj who works in the Police Service Inter Agency Task Force (IATF).
A shootout ensued between Lackraj and the two bandits. As bullets flew, Ali pushed his wife Tricia under the table before he slumped to the ground. The bandit in the ski-mask also fell to the ground, while his cohort lost his nerve and ran out of the bar, empty handed. Screams filled the bar as Ali’s relatives discovered that he had been shot.
Relatives of Ali began screaming when they realised that he was shot. Police subsequently identified the dead bandit as 31-year-old John Dolland of Sangre Grande who was recently deported from the United States.
Dolland’s uncle Glen Dolland told Newsday that he believed Dolland’s inability to secure a job led him to getting a gun and attempting the hold-up.
Traumatised members of the Ali family including Lackraj were given counselling at the Sangre Grande Hospital.
At the house of mourning, Tricia stared aimlessly at her wedding photo. She screamed and had to be comforted by relatives.
Zorida Ali, said she only returned from New York a few hours before her son was shot dead. Ali said she was so elated to meet her daughter-in-law for the first time since she could not attend the wedding. It was while she was bonding with her daughter-in-law, that tragedy.
The grieving woman said on Christmas Day, her son put on a Santa Claus suit and distributed toys to poor children in Plum Mitan.
Tears welling up in her eyes, Ali said she never thought she would be burying her son.
Ali said she had planned to spend some quality time with her son, new daughter-in-law and grandchildren. “I cannot describe the way I am feeling right now. I saw my son killed right before my eyes and I was helpless to do anything. My precious son never did anything to hurt anyone... why did he have to go like this,” she cried.
Ali said a suitcase filled with clothes, jewelry and shoes which she purchased as gifts for her son and daughter-in-law, remained unpacked at home. District Medical Officer Dr Ramana Vadula viewed the body of Dolland at the bar and ordered it removed to the Forensic Science Centre. Up to yesterday the murder toll stood at 76.
Senior police sources revealed that Lackraj was permitted to keep his service weapon with him following death threats he had received in the wake of the arrest of a gang leaders and seizure of several guns which was made by the IATF recently.
In the wake of recent attacks on policemen including one in which an officer was stabbed to death in Port-of-Spain, while another had his home firebombed, the Police Second Division Welfare Association has called on Commissioner of Police Trevor Paul to allow “high-risk” officers to carry their service weapons home.
It was reported that in the face of a refusal by the police top brass to allow officers to carry guns home, several officers broke police regulations and carried their guns home. When this was discovered, officers were ordered transferred and internal disciplinary investigations commenced.
Visiting the scene of yesterday’s deadly shooting were Snr Supt Eulyna Julius, Supt Leroy Charlerie, Inspectors Neville Sankar and Fermin Roy, and Woman Sgt Beverly Paul.
Investigations are continuing.