Up to late yesterday, the dead men remained unidentified, while the third suspect who remains detained, is said to be from St Joseph area.
The actions of the officers were applauded by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan during a press briefing yesterday at the Ministry of National Security in Port-of-Spain. Ramlogan also said that the “war” against crime is on.
According to a police report, the drama started shortly before 7 am when three men entered Goodwood Racing Pool at Green Street in Arima and announced a hold-up to the seven workers who were in the process of opening for business.
The men pointed their weapons at the cashiers and demanded from the cashiers the ‘float’ (overnight cash) to operate the day’s business, as well as access to a safe and vault which were both located on the compound.
According to police reports, one of the men gained access to the safe, which contained $30,000, by shooting away at the safe’s locking device. As the men were trying to place the cash into bags, an alarm was triggered which alerted officers from the nearby Arima Police Station prompting an immediate response.
Officers from that station and the Northern Division Task Force (NDTF) surrounded the racing pool and a short while later, were greeted by rapid gunfire from the criminals inside the building. A police vehicle which the officers arrived in, was riddled with bullets which damaged its hood and right fender. Officers returned fire, hitting two of the three suspects. The men, according to police sources, died while being taken to the Arima District Hospital. The third accomplice who tried to escape by pretending to be one of the workers of the businessplace, was arrested and taken into police custody.
A 49-year-old man from D’Abadie reportedly sustained minor injuries during the shootout. Most of the cash remained littered on the floor of the racing pool. A white coloured Nissan B15 car, believed to belong to the criminals, was later impounded by police.
The entire length of Green Street was cordoned off as police officers and crime scene processing technicians collected evidence which included dozens of spent bullet shells. Hundreds of curious onlookers converged behind the yellow police ‘caution tape’ and took in the drama.’
Among those at the scene were Member of Parliament for Arima Rodger Samuel, Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph and PNM Councillor Anthony Garcia.
Senior police officers told Newsday that the rapid response by Northern Division officers, was key to foiling the daring early morning robbery. A police source said that it was worrying to see the criminal element armed with such sophisticated weapons similar to those seized from yesterday’s incident.
Superintendent Leroy Brebnor lamented to Newsday: “We don’t have weapons like this. Not at all. While police are moving around with firearms with simply one magazine, these bandits are walking around with automatic weapons with over three magazines at a time. They have the latest in weaponry while most of ours are outdated.”
Despite this, the senior officer assured that they will support any move by the authorities to reclaim the country from the hands of the criminal elements. Samuel also commended the action of the police saying it was a clear indication that the police officers were committed to securing the interests of the citizenry.
“I have been informed that police responded within minutes of the robbery. This was an excellent execution of their duties and as a result of this there was no innocent life lost. I applaud the actions of the police and appeal to the public to work with the officers to ensure we will take back Arima from the hands of these criminals,” Samuel said.
His sentiments were echoed by Youseph who reiterated that innocent lives were preserved by the police’s swift actions. A man who identified himself only as ‘Maxi’ said the police’s actions were “a good thing” despite the fact that it resulted in the death of two men.
“I have been living in Arima for the past 80 years and right now it is so sad to see that Arima has now become infested with crime. Our society is under siege by these criminals and it is time we take it back,” Maxi noted.
Goodwood Racing Pool remained closed for business yesterday as police officers continued investigations. Sgt Samuel, Cpl Harewood, and PCs Neela, Newton were among the seven NDTF officers involved in the shooting.
Up to late yesterday investigations were said to be continuing, spearheaded by ACP Eulyn Julius, ASP Samuel Bullen, ASP Randolph Boyce, Supt Leroy Brebnor and Inspector Seecharan.
Yesterday’s doubling killing brought the number of persons killed by police for this year to 37.