Custom guard Othneil White died and was not shot during the gun battle between police and Venezuelan drug runners on Sunday (Photo: searchlight.vc).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Othneil White, the Customs guard found floating in the waters off Union Island hours after a gun battle between police and foreign drug runners on Sunday, drowned and was not shot, as police had earlier indicated.

A statement from the Office of the Commissioner of Police on Wednesday said that an autopsy revealed the cause of White’s death.

Police further said there was no visible sign of injuries on the body of the custom guard, who was among four persons, including three foreigners believed to be Venezuelans, who died in connection to the incident on the Southern Grenadine island.

In their initial report, Police said cops and Customs officers were patrolling the waters when they encountered a Venezuelan boat.

“Personnel on the boat opened fire at the law enforcement officials who returned fire, resulting in the deaths of the Venezuelans. Customs Guard Othniel ‘Money–Man’ White sustained gunshot wounds from hostile fire and died at the scene. One other Venezuelan national, who sustained gunshot injuries during the incident, is a patient at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital,” the Police Public Relations Department said in a statement Tuesday.

Searchlight newspaper reported on Tuesday that after the shootout at sea police had to restrain angry persons in Union Island to prevent further harm to the foreigners.

They did not realise that White was unaccounted for until the boat returned to the dock, according to the publication.

He was found facedown in the water shortly after 8 p.m. with a weak pulse and declared dead at the Union Island Health Centre after efforts to revive him failed.

White, a married father of four, was a customs guard for 21 years and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who is Minister of National Security, praised the actions of him and the cop who approached the foreigners.

“Clearly these two public officials went to extraordinary lengths in pursuance of their duties, and I can only reiterate we should be very happy that we have dedicated police office officers, and in this case a customs guard, as exemplified in this incident,” Searchlight quoted Gonsalves as saying.

Gonsalves also visited White’s family, prayed with them and offered condolences and announced that the state will pay for his funeral expenses, according to the newspaper.

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