“The officers were beating me like an animal,” he deposes in a witness statement filed alongside a lawsuit which the State has now conceded.
“I was begging the officers to stop but they still continued to beat me. I could feel the skin on my face burning from the slaps of Officer Bahadoor. I thought the officer would kill me with licks. I was bawling, screaming and crying while the officers were beating me but the officers still did not stop. Officer Jagroop then told me, ‘I is Satan and I come to kill’.”
This disturbing account is just one portion of Arjoon’s deposition against three police officers in a lawsuit he filed against the State after the incidents of June 2004.
While each of the police officers, in sworn statements, denied ever beating Arjoon, the Ministry of the Attorney General on February 6, 2012, signed a consent order conceding the case.
Proceedings to determine the damages, which could amount to almost half-a-million dollars, began yesterday before Master Martha Alexander at the High Court in Port-of-Spain. Alexander asked attorney for the Ministry of the Attorney General, Nathaniel Pierre, whether the State would be willing to enter into a voluntary settlement. Pierre indicated that talks would begin with Arjoon’s attorney Varun Debindeen.
“Parties are to hold discussions,” Alexander noted, adjourning the matter to July 18.
The case dates back to June 13, 2004 when labourer Arjoon’s home at Quarry Road, Morne Diable, Penal, was searched without warrant by the police who said they had received a report, while on patrol, of a break-in and theft of $800 and household items. That report, they said, came from a man who turned out to be Arjoon’s brother, Roy. Arjoon, in his court action, alleged that he was taken that night to the Penal Police Station where he was locked into a room with the three officers.
He deposed that he was slapped across the face; cuffed, kicked, beaten about the body in the stomach, back and legs and punched in the head.
In his deposition, Arjoon said of one officer, “I thought he would kill me.”
Of another he said, “The officer was getting on like a man possessed.”
Throughout his ordeal, Arjoon, who was 37 then, was made to strip and was beaten, at various points, with a piece of wood and a cable. At one stage an officer munched on a sandwich and watched.
Arjoon, now 45, was so badly beaten that, years later, he continued to seek treatment for the injuries he suffered including: contusions; shortness of breath; passing of blood in his urine and stool; inability to have sexual intercourse and severe headaches. To date, he has sleepless nights and lives in fear of the police.
“On June 13, at approximately 6.30 in the afternoon, I was doing some work for my neighbour,” Arjoon deposed in his statement filed at the High Court in support of his case, which has been obtained by Newsday. “I was changing some galvanise on her house.”
“A short while after I started doing the work for my neighbour, some police officers arrived at the house of my neighbour where I was working.”
Three officers exited a marked police vehicle: Officer Thomas Bernard; Officer Salick Jagroop and Officer Russell Bahadoor. They were in uniform.
“They proceeded to tell me that I was under arrest for being in possession of stolen items,” Arjoon said. “The officers told me that I ‘lock up’ and they carried me into the police vehicle.”
A 13-year-old neighbour, called Crookshan, who had reportedly given the police “information” about Arjoon, was also arrested. Both were taken to a bar. They then returned to Arjoon’s house and the police conducted a search (without warrant). Nothing was found. The officers left.
“A short while after the same police officers in the same marked police vehicle came back to my house,” Arjoon said. “When I came out of the house, Officer Bahadoor told me, ‘I would teach you something.’ I went outside to the vehicle and they put me in the van.”
Crookshan was also in the van and both were taken to the Penal Police Station.
“While I was in the vehicle on the way to the police station, Officer Bahadoor told me, ‘You playing you don’t want to talk I go learn you a lesson.’ Officer Bahadoor and Officer Jagroop (were) telling Crookshan to ask me where I put the things that I thief.” At the police station, Arjoon was taken to a room, where, according to him, the beating began.
“Officer Bahadoor started to ask me questions about where I put the things. I told him I did not know what he was talking about. Each time I answered Officer Bahadoor, I was hit a slap across my face. I was slapped about 15 to 20 times in my face.
“One time, while I was being questioned, Officer Jagroop hit me a slap across my face and hit me a jump kick and I fell over on the ground out of the chair. I did not know why the officers were beating me. I was crying when Jagroop was slapping me across my face.”
The three officers then proceeded to beat him.
“While I was on the ground, the officers were kicking me and cuffing me all over my body. The officers kicked me in my ribs, back and belly. They kicked me in my behind and my legs. The officers were wearing boots,” he said.
He continued, “The officers were beating me like an animal. While all of this was going on I was shouting to the officers that I did not know what they were talking about and they still continued to beat me. I was hit a number of times in my head and face. I could not count the amount of times.”
After an officer said, “I is Satan and I come to kill”, Arjoon tried to get up.
“I tried to get up but each time that I tried to get up the officers would beat me more and more and I would fall to the ground. Officer Jagroop was telling me while he was beating me, ‘Get up and take your licks.’”
This continued non-stop for about five minutes, the beatings then entered another phase.
“Officer Bahadoor went into a desk in the room and took out a piece of wood,” Arjoon said. “He told me to get up. This time when I got up he told me to bend over the desk that was in the room. I was frightened when I saw the officer with the piece of wood. When I bent over, the officer started to beat me on my behind and on the back on my legs with the piece of wood. I was feeling like my legs would break. I was telling the officer that I don’t know nothing but he continued beating me. The officer was getting on like a man possessed.”
He was struck about two dozen times.
“The officer hit me about 25 times with the piece of wood on my legs and bottom. I fell to the ground a number of times. Every time that I would get up, the officer would continue beating me,” Arjoon said. There was a momentary lull from the wood.
“After about five minutes of beating me with the piece of wood, Officer Bahadoor handed the piece of wood that he was beating me with to Officer Jagroop. Officer Jagroop then took the piece of wood and went in a corner of the room and started eating a sandwich.”
The other officers continued to beat him. “They were kicking and cuffing,” he said. “After Officer Jagroop had finished eating the sandwich, he came up to me with the piece of wood and started to beat me with the wood. He beat me with the piece of wood all over my body. He hit me about 15 strokes. I felt like each time he hit me with the piece of wood something would burst inside me. This officer was telling me over and over that he would teach me a lesson.”
The education was not yet over for Arjoon, who was reportedly an out-patient of the Psychiatric Unit of the San Fernando General Hospital at the time.
“When this officer had finished beating me, Officer Bahadoor went into one of the drawers and pulled out a gun. He put the gun to my head and he tell me, ‘You want to play crazy I would kill you here right now.’ He pulled the trigger and I bawl out for Jesus but the gun click and did not fire. The other officers were laughing,” he said. There was yet more to learn.
“Officer Bahadoor then went into the drawer of the desk and took out cable from the desk. Officer Bahadoor then ordered me to drop my pants and bend over the desk. I was so frightened that I took my pants and bend over the table. I was very ashamed to have to take off my pants in front of the other officers,” Arjoon said.
“Officer Bahadoor then took the cable and started to beat me with the cable on my bottom. Officer Bahadoor hit me about ten strokes across my bottom,” Arjoon deposed. “I fell to the ground a number of times. I thought the officer would kill me with licks the way he was beating me. The officer kept telling me that if I don’t want to talk he would make me talk.” The beatings ended five minutes after that.
“At this time, I could hardly stand up but could not sit down because of the pain. I was forced to sit down on the bench with my pants still off,” Arjoon said. He was told to pull up his pants and to bend over, once more. The beating with the cable then resumed. At one point, Crookshan was brought into the room and forced to cuff Arjoon in the face.
Arjoon was later dropped off in the night about a mile from his home. He walked home but was then taken to the San Fernando General Hospital soon after. A doctor there recorded injuries including: two ten centimetre contusions on the right and left buttocks, a six centimetre contusion on the lower back, soft tissue injuries. Photographs taken two days later, submitted to court, showed Arjoon appearing to have large dark bruises about these areas of his body.
“After I went home the pain did not stop,” Arjoon said. “I could not sleep and I could not lie down on my back. I was in real pain. I would also get real bad headaches after the beating. I remained in pain in my back and bottom for more than a week. I could not sleep or lie down. When I went to the bathroom there would be traces of blood.” He could not be intimate with his wife.
Arjoon claimed the officers returned to his home after the beating to intimidate him. “The officers visited my home on a number of occasions and threatened that if I went to a lawyer they would come and arrest me and lock me up.”
This triggered a letter from his lawyer, Gerald Ramdeen (lead attorney in the case). Police later invited Arjoon to return to the police station to identify the assailants. Arjoon, on advice from Ramdeen, declined.
All of the police officers denied, in sworn affidavits in defence, making any contact with Arjoon after leaving him at his home in the wake of the initial search. They questioned why Arjoon failed to go to the police station to identify the assailants after he reported the incident.
However none of the evidence will be tested in court because the State has conceded. Arjoon is seeking damages for assault and battery and all consequential loss; aggravated damages; exemplary damages; costs; interest and any further relief deemed appropriate.
Newsday broke the news that the State had conceded the case to Arjoon at his home in Morne Diablo yesterday. He recalled being so badly bruised from the beatings that he had to sleep on his stomach for three months.
“I cannot forget that day. It was the worst day in my life. The police told me I break the law, but the court found they violated the law in the worst way,” Arjoon said. “Why these police officers did this to me, up to now I don’t know.”
Arjoon said he would never feel that justice is done, if the policemen who beat him, do not apologise. “To pull my pants down and beat me like a child, then drop me half way home, I cannot forgive so easily.”