This was how police yesterday described the brutal murder of mother of five Patrina Salandy who was shot multiple times by hilltop snipers as she used her own body to desperately shield four of her children — including a five-month-old baby — from snipers’ bullets while walking along St Paul Street in East Port-of-Spain.
Salandy’s blood is the latest to be spilled in the East Port-of-Spain and Laventille areas where boldfaced gangsters have waged war on each other, the police and on law-abiding citizens on an almost daily basis. What her death means now, is that it is no longer safe to even walk the streets in these so called crime hot spots.
According to reports, at about 12 noon yesterday, 39-year-old Salandy was holding her five- month-old daughter Kayla in her arms while her children Lorenzo, 13; Raheem, 11 and four-year-old Jaydon, were walking along St Paul Street en route to their home after they had left a grocery where the women made some purchases.
Eyewitnesses said without warning, the surrounding hillside came alive with gunshots raining down as snipers, hidden in the hills, began to shoot. Hearing the shots fired, Salandy grabbed her children and used her own body to shield them from the bullets as she pushed them behind a wall.
As bullets ripped into her body, Salandy collapsed and in so doing, threw a screaming baby Kayla from her arms onto the pavement. Persons who saw what was taking place, braved the bullets as they ran and grabbed baby Kayla and Salandy’s other children and took them to the nearby Besson Street Police Station.
Officers arrived on the scene to find Salandy lying on the road bleeding profusely as the snipers ceased their deadly shooting. Salandy was rushed to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital where she died while receiving emergency treatment. Salandy also had another daughter who is 22.
Police reported that 16-year-old Rohan Riez, who was standing along the roadside was also shot and subsequently died. Up to press time it was not known where the teen lived and if he was the true target of the snipers or, like Salandy and her children, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A resident at one of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) apartments nearby took Kayla and kept her until her (the baby) father Kurt Fields returned from hospital after Salandy died.
The resident, who asked not to be identified, told Newsday she did not want to put the child down because every time she tried to do so, baby Kayla would scream and tremble.
She said they were awaiting the father’s return from the hospital so that she (baby Kayla) could be taken to hospital for a medical check-up as it was not known if she suffered any injuries when she was thrown from her shot mother’s arms.
“We are living in difficult times and there seems to be no end to this madness,” the resident said. About an hour after the incident, Fields who himself was the victim of a shooting in July last year, returned from hospital, his grey vest soaked in his common-law wife’s blood.
Fields appeared to be in a daze as he walked towards the woman who was holding his daughter. As baby Kayla leaned her tiny head on her father’s shoulder, she began to scream and cry. Fields looked stunned and did not even try to comfort his baby.
He did not respond to any questions asked by Newsday. His eyes were dull. Baby Kayla kept on screaming and crying. Fields handed over the baby to a female friend who left. Newsday was told the woman took the child to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope to be medically examined.
A few residents brave enough to speak with Newsday, said they were inside their apartment homes when they heard the gunshots.
A woman said she ducked for cover as a bullet entered through a window, breaking the pane. She said she cried out for her eight-year-old son and when she did not hear him, thought he had been shot.
“I called his name three times and when I did not hear him answer, I shout out, ‘Lord my child get shoot’. But when he heard me cry out, he came from where he was hiding,” the woman said. Another woman said she has lived in the area for the last 17 years and this was the first time she had witnessed snipers from the hills pick off children and a woman as they walked the streets.
“All I know is I need to move out of here because if they could just kill a woman while she walking on the road with her children, what else would they do,” she said.
All residents who spoke with reporters refused to give their names saying they are afraid of being hunted down for speaking out about the violence.
Salandy’s body and the body of Riez have been sent to the Forensic Science Centre, St James where autopsies are scheduled for today. Yesterday’s sniper attack came a day after residents of East Port-of-Spain staged a fiery protest after Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) police shot and killed 19-year-old Keshorn Daniel during a shootout. (See Page 5A)
Stung into action by this unprecedented level of gang violence, the Government on the weekend announced that an elite squad comprising 80 specially selected and trained officers from the Police, Defence Force, Coast Guard and Immigration has been set up to tackle gang violence and counter terrorism. The squad is to be called the Special Operations Group.