Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines say they are investigating an incident in Choppins on Saturday, during which police discharged their weapons in the air, as civilians attempted to remove another civilian from their custody.
“… had it not been for the restraint exercised by the police officers, the situation could have turned out to be very tragic for the suspect, the unruly mob, and themselves,” police spokesperson Superintendent of Police Junior Simmons said in a statement on Thursday.
“The RSVGPF further reiterates that it is an offence to obstruct a police officer while he/she is executing their duty,” Simmons further said, adding that acting Commissioner of Police, Enville Williams has ordered a full investigation into the matter.
“The RSVGPF calls on all citizens and residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to respect and abide by the laws of the state. There are too many instances where some members of the public are engaged in ‘fighting’ the police. The RSVGPF encourages the public to work with the police in creating safer communities and combating crime and violence in the land.”
In his statement, which was broadcast on Facebook, Simmons said that about 8:30 p.m., acting on information, a party of officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) went to Choppins in search of a suspect who was reportedly in possession of an illegal firearm.
“Upon entering the village, they saw a male fitting the description of the suspected person.
The officers approached the suspect and identified themselves to him as police officers. The officer in charge of the patrol informed the suspect about the information that was received and requested a search of his person.
“A crowd immediately gathered around the police and the suspect and started to behave in a hostile manner towards the police. A police officer then held onto the suspect and attempted to search him. The suspect pulled away and slapped the officer in his face.
The officers again held on to the suspect in an attempt to conduct the search; however, the angry crowd violently pulled the suspect away from the officers. While this was happening, someone from the crowd grabbed the purse that the suspect was carrying, which the officers suspected to have contained the illegal firearm, as reported, and ran.
“During the upheaval, a police officer was thrown to the ground by the crowd, and was injured in the process. In an effort to disperse the crowd and de-escalate the situation, police discharged two shots in the air.”
Simmons said the police wish to remind the public of the obligations and powers conferred upon police officers in the execution of their duties and in accordance with the Firearms Act, and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), relating to, among other things, the arrest and searching of suspects.
He noted that the Firearms Act states “Where a police officer reasonably suspects that any person is carrying a firearm or ammunition concealed about his person, he may (a) Ask that person if he is carrying a firearm; (b) If that person is carrying a firearm or ammunition, require that person to produce the firearm or ammunition and, unless he is exempted under section 15, his licence or permit.”
Section 2 of that same law says if any person fails to comply as requested under subsection (1), he commits an offence and the police officer may seize and retain the firearm or ammunition until such time as legal proceedings against that person are concluded.
Section 3 stated: If any person denies that he is carrying a firearm or ammunition about his person, the police officer may search that person and seize and retain any firearm found until such time as legal proceedings are concluded against that person and shall require that person to declare to him his name and address.
The senior police officer further pointed out that the CPC authorises any police officer to stop, search and detain any vessel, vehicle, or any person who may reasonably be suspected of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything stolen or unlawfully obtained or in respect of which an offence is being or has been committed.
“The officers received credible information that the suspect was carrying an illegal firearm. Therefore, their suspicion and attempt to arrest and search the suspect were reasonable and justified by law,” Simmons said.
He further quotes section 22 (1) of the CPC, which states, “In making an arrest, the police officer or other person making the arrest shall touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested unless there is a submission to the custody by word or action.”
“The officer rightly held onto the suspect’s hand to effect the arrest but he pulled away,” Simmons said.
He further noted that section 22(2) of the CPC states “If such person (the person who is under arrest) forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or endeavours to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.