On June 21, 2021, when three men were arraigned on charges related to the alleged theft of firearms and ammunition from the Georgetown Police Station, prosecutor Renrick Cato told the Serious Offences Court that one firearm and “plenty ammunition” were still missing.
Almost a year on, and as Zackrie Latham, 26, a former police constable is being tried on 13 charges in connection with the alleged theft of the firearm and ammunition, it is still not clear just how much ammunition is missing.
In fact, Latham’s trial, taking place before Magistrate Zoila Ellis-Browne at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court, suggests that officers at the Georgetown Police Station made assumptions about what firearms and ammunition were at the station, rather than physically checking to see whether what was on their books corresponded to what was actually in their armoury.
Further, so far prosecutor Crown Counsel Maria Jackson-Richards has presented a case that suggests that at least 101 rounds of ammunition were stolen from the station in 2021 before the major heist sometime in June.
Latham is charged that on two occasions between Jan. 31 and June 17, 2021, he stole a total of 300 rounds of ammunition from the station.
He was jointly charged with Meshach Dublin, 26, and Avi King, 26, both of Diamonds, that on June 17, at Diamonds, they had in their possession 305 rounds of ammunition without a licence issued under the Firearms Act.
Dublin and King have pleaded guilty to that and other charges in relation to the firearm and ammunition and are serving prison sentences.
Latham’s trial, witch began in February, resumed at the Calliaqua Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, when three sergeants of police — 523 Collin Pitt, 445 Verrol Massiah, and 163 Disraeli Lett gave insights into the state of firearms and ammunition records at the Georgetown Police Station before June 2, 2021.
The evidence of the sergeants was that sometime after La Soufriere volcano erupted on April 9, 2021, officers from Owia and Sandy Bay police stations moved to Georgetown Police Station, bringing their weapons and ammunition with them.
In his evidence in chief, Pitt said he was the non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of the Sandy Bay Police Station, which had two Glock pistols — serial numbers NLN 156 and NLN 156 — and 375 rounds of ammunition.
He told the court that the weapons and ammunition were secured in the armoury of Georgetown Police Station.
On June 2, 2021, about 10 a.m. he left the Georgetown Police Station to proceed on rest leave, returning on June 4, about 9:15 a.m.
Pitt said that on his return, he was informed that the armoury was burglarised.
During cross examination by defence counsel Grant Connell, Pitt said he was stationed at Georgetown from April 9 to sometime in September and was one of the supervisors there.
He said that two Glocks were assigned to the Sandy Bay Police station and the third was his service weapon.
He told the court that the Sandy Bay Police Station had 305 rounds of ammunition in boxes and 69 in magazines.
Pitt said he had his service pistol when they evacuated the station after the eruption
He said that on June 1, he checked the weapons assigned to his station — NLN-150, 156, and 157 and completed the monthly return ending May 31, and found them to be intact in the armoury.
Pitt told the court he was able to get the key and check the armoury for himself.
The armoury, he said, has one door with two lock, each of which is opened with a different key.
The last time he went into the armoury was on May 31 to do the monthly return, Pitt said, and further told the court that at the end of every shift, checks are made of what ammunition and firearms are present at the station.
This, he said, is “physically checking” and the findings are recorded in the station diary and this is done every time an officer hands over duty to another.
In this way, the next officer would know what is in the armoury, Pitt said.
Next to testify was Massiah who was Lett’s senior at Georgetown Police Station.
Massiah’s evidence regarding the number and serial numbers of weapons and the ammunition brought from Sandy Bay Police Station matched Pitt’s.
He further told the court that the Owia Police Station brought two Glock pistols –serial numbers LNL 143 and 144 — and 396 rounds of 9mm ammunition and placed them in the armoury at the Georgetown Police Station.
In addition, the Georgetown Police Station had in its armoury 1,111 rounds of 9mm ammunitions as well as Glock pistols LNL 151 to 155, and two M4 rifles — serial numbers W876551 and W877775.
Massiah said that on June 2, he handed over all the above-mentioned weapons and ammunition to Lett and made an entry in the station diary.
“I observed Sergeant Lett went to the armoury and checked the above mentioned handing over and made an entry in the diary as to his taking over,” Massiah told the court in his evidence in chief.
Massiah, who had been assigned to the station for three years before the alleged burglary, said he also handed over to Lett a bunch of keys “concerning the armoury and the station”.
Massiah subsequently left the station and on his return on June 4, was informed that the station had been burglarised and weapons and ammunition were missing from the armoury.
He said that his duties include checking the firearms and ammunition in the armoury, which he did at 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Massiah said he recorded his finding in the station diary and did so before handing over to Lett.
“I would write, ‘I handed over the duties to Sergeant Lett, including the weapons and ammunition and keys.’ If there are prisoners, I will make an entry in the diary.”
The sergeant identified for the court the entry in the station diary — entry #51, which was made at 10:59 p.m.
The entry spoke of two unexecuted warrants and that the keys and records were in order.
During cross examination, Massiah told the court that the entry in the diary would prove that what was written there actually existed in the armoury.
He said that serial numbers are used to distinguish firearms, but stated that without a serial number the firearms he said were in the armoury would be identified “by the entry in the diary”.
Massiah said that without a serial number in the diary, the logical conclusion is not that there is no firearm.
He told the court that Corporal 412 Ronald Noel — who also testified on Tuesday — was in the station office when the handing over took place.
Massiah said he could not remember from whom he assumed duty but this would be in the record.
However, when Connell leafed through the diary, he noted that the alleged burglary was discovered on June 3 and the diary before the court began on June 1.
He said he was looking for the record for May and was, therefore, asking the prosecution to provide it.
However, the prosecutor told the court that she was not in possession of the diary relating to that period.
“If he made a request it would have been here,” Jackson-Richards told the court.
“I didn’t expect the diary would start the day before the allegation was made. I would expect at least they would give me a chronology of events,” the defence counsel said.
As the cross examination continued Massiah told the court that he and Lett went into the armoury together and checked the firearms and ammunition
“You lifted up the box of ammunition and checked individually in front of Lett?” Connell asked.
“Yes,” Lett responded.
Asked to give the specifics on how the counting was done, Massiah said:
“I opened the filing cabinet and picked up the box of ammunition, 9mm.”
“How, much was in that box?” Connell asked.
“One thousand, one hundred and eleven.”
“So in that box, that was 1,111?”
“No, there are 50 in a box,” Massiah said, adding that there were also 102 rounds of ammunition for M4 rifles.
“Everything was in one box — about 2’x2′ cardboard box. It contained boxes. I can’t remember how many.”
“You can’t remember because you did not count or what?” Connell said.
Massiah said he could not recall how many boxes but they contained 50 rounds of 9mm ammunition each.
“The M4 are in boxes of 20,” Massiah said, but told the court he could not remember how many boxes there were.
Connell said, “My calculation: five will make a 100. So, the M4 boxes were full or not? If they were full you have two spare. If they were not full that means you have under 100.”
He then put it to Massiah that there must have been five full boxes of M4 ammunition and two loose rounds.
“Can’t recall,” Massiah said.
Massiah told the court that neither he nor Lett took notes and that it was a “mental count”.
He said that after the count he repacked the ammunition; “about five magazines were fill” — loaded with 14 rounds each.
Massiah told the court that it was he who opened the armoury and after the count he closed it.
He said he could not recall which officers had a service pistol between June 1 and 2.
Massiah also could not recall how many empty boxes for the block pistols were in the armoury?
Meanwhile, Lett, in his evidence in chief, told the court that the last weapon to be issued at the station before the burglary was uncovered was at 6 p.m. on June 2. This was recorded in the firearm register.
The station orderly was Police Constable 913 Jack, who worked from 10 a.m. on June 2, to 6 a.m. on June 3.
Latham relieved her.
Lett said that at 6:10 a.m., he checked on a prisoner who was in custody to ensure that his meals and ablutions were provided for.
About 9 a.m., the sergeant dispatched the station vehicle to Kingstown to receive six prisoners for the final day fatigue of the Georgetown Police Station.
When the prisoners returned, they were supervised as they cleaned volcanic ash from the roof of the police station.
“I ensured the necessary security was in place at the station while I cooked for the prisoners who were on duty,” Lett said.
He said that when the prisoners were finished around 4 p.m., he delegated PC Horne and another officer to transport them to Her Majesty’s Prisons, in Kingstown.
Lett said that at 4:15 p.m., he and Horne went to the armoury and “upon entering the vicinity of where the armoury was, I observed that the strip that acts as part of the security for the armoury door was ripped away.
“I said to PC Horne, ‘This looks very strange’,” Lett had.
Connell corrected him, saying, “I said something”, a reference to the hearsay rule, which prevents witnesses from repeating certain things, not said in the presence of the accused.
“I immediately opened the door and observed that the weapon, the M4 that was on the floor lying when I took over was not in the place where I left it.
“I pulled the drawer, which is like a filing cabinet, and realised the firearms, which were in the boxes, the Glock boxes, weapons previously left in the armoury, were missing, along with 20 full boxes of ammunition and 37 rounds of Glock ammunition there were missing. That’s for Georgetown.
“The 82 rounds of .56 M4 ammunition were missing, LNL-144, 151, 155 with the M4 was also missing with other ammunition. In the vault was a parcel of ammunition wrapped to the Owia police station with three magazines of ammunition.
“On seeing this, I became very fearful. In light of the situation, I immediately called Inspector Providence and Superintendent Samuel. I told them of my observation, hence being I had the key for the armoury in my possession and gave no one permission to go to the armoury,” Lett told the court.
He said that Providence and Samuel visited the armoury and “acknowledged my observation as reported”.
He said that Samuel gave instruction and he (Lett) “made an entry in the station diary as to my observation and what was missing.
“Later that said day, the commissioner and a team of men arrived at the station and conducted investigations into the missing firearms and ammunition.”
Lett told the court that he was stationed at the Georgetown Police Station from Nov. 27, 2020 to June 2021.
He said the armoury had a single lock.
“It is a knob lock; no deadbolt.”
The Glock pistols were kept in a filing cabinet that was not locked and the M4 rifles were placed on the ground in the cardboard boxes they came in.
The Glock pistols for Georgetown Police Station were in original boxes, those for Sandy Bay were in a cardboard box in the drawer and those for Owia were in a sealed parcel.
He said that after his discovery of the alleged burglary, the weapon register was used as a guide to say which weapon was issued and which remained.
“Along with the handing over, the NCO receiving and I would have (sic) physically went and examined the weapon in the armoury,” he told the court.
Lett identified in the diary his entry, #56 at 4:48 p.m. regarding the missing weapons and ammunition.
He said that the person receiving a firearm and ammunition would make the entry in the diary and he (Lett) would sign his initials as the issuing officer.
He said he made two such entries on June 2, indicating that LNL 152 was issued to Patrick and 153 to Stay
During cross examination, Lett told the court that the handing over between him and Massiah took place in the station office.
“I can’t recall who was present. I checked the armoury by myself. I checked the armoury immediately after taking over duty at 10:31 a.m. I had the keys to the armoury and I opened it. This was about 10:32 to 10:35. I examined what was handed over to me because there were two weapons out.”
Lett said he looked at what was in the armoury and “mentally recorded what was there” — pistols LNL 151, 152, 153, 155, and M4 rifle W877775.
“I checked the ammunition in the boxes which were there. There were 20 full boxes and 37 in boxes. The loose ammunition refers to those that are in magazines. Out of the 74 that were loose, 14 were issued from Georgetown,” Lett told the court.
He said he could not recall how many magazines were loaded with ammunition.
“I checked them but can’t recall because there were other weapons and ammunition for the Owia and Sandy Bay police station with ammunition in there. I made mental notes. I did not make any notes in a notebook. I had memory of what was in the armoury.”
Asked why he did not write down the information as you counted in the armoury, Lett said, “I know what I took over.”
The defence counsel suggested to Lett that there was no detail of anything that was in the armoury as far as a count was concerned.
“That’s true. There was no full detail.”
Connell further suggested that in order to verify what was missing, Lett went to the weapon register to match and calculate what firearm and ammunition were missing.
Lett, however, said that was not the case.
The lawyer suggested that the number of rounds of ammunition for Owia and Sandy Bay were also unknown when the alleged burglary was discovered.
Lett said that information could not have been unknown because all records for the two stations, plus those for Georgetown, were at the station.
Lett said that on June 3 he prepared a statement as part of the investigation and what he said in it was the truth.
The lawyer asked him to read section of the statement, where Lett had written
“two 2 Glock pistols … along with rounds of ammunition unknown for Owia” and
“… rounds of ammunition unknown for Sandy Bay…”
Lett commented, “Unknown. At this time it was unknown. But investigation, whenever a matter happens–“
He said he verified the “unknown” the same day with the NCOs from the Owia and Sandy Bay police stations.
The lawyer pointed Lett to his statement, where he said, “I got the weapon register and made match of what firearms and ammunition were missing.”
“And the key word there is ‘match’,” Lett responded.
Lett told the court that the weapon register is checked every time a weapon is issued or returned to the station.
He said he couldn’t recall when last the firearms that were stolen were issued to a police officer.
“Tell the court where we can find documentation that those firearms were present in the armoury up until June 2,” Connell said.
“If I have to say which date, I’d be telling a lie,” Lett said.
“There is a monthly return done at the end of each month. I can’t recall who did the last one but there is a record showing a monthly return of all weapons accounted for,” he said.