COP: 21 police-involved shootings, 13 “idiots” killed in 2021

COP: 21 police-involved shootings, 13 “idiots” killed in 2021
Police on the scene of a crime.

The coroner’s court has not had an inquest in more than a year 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — There were 21 police-involved shooting incidents that occurred in 2021, 13 of which were fatal, according to Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle. 

Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle at a press conference on Thursday, December 30, 2021. (BIS/ERIC ROSE)

Rolle made the revelation during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister where he gave an update on crime in the country over the past year.

The commissioner advised that of the total number of police-involved shootings this year, seven occurred during the month of December, two of which were fatal.

“I don’t just want to concentrate on the fact that it’s police killings because you have 13 killings and 13 attempts to kill police,” Rolle said when questioned about the number of incidents.

“These are 13 idiots who are crazy enough to pull a gun on my officers and officers are not going to sit by and let somebody shoot them.”

He urged Bahamians to encourage family members who may have illegal firearms to turn them in.

Rolle said the latest police-involved shooting incident occurred on Grand Bahama on Wednesday night following a high-speed chase of suspects through the Hawksbill and South Bahamia area.

According to reports, officers on mobile patrol observed individuals in a small Nissan Note discharging shots at persons in a Honda Fit. 

There was an exchange of fire with the occupants of the Nissan as police officers chased them. 

Police said three suspects exited the vehicle and fled into bushes.

Officers later arrested a man in the bushes suffering from a gunshot injury to the shoulder, which was believed to have been caused by police, and recovered a 7.62 AK47 assault rifle from the vehicle. 

The man was taken to the Rand Memorial Hospital for treatment, where shortly after another man arrived at the facility indicating that the suspects had shot him.

“We continue to be concerned for these level of violence and gun violence that we see and concerned with persons who are prepared to engage the police in gun battle,” Rolle said.

“I wish to discourage this type of aggression and urge individuals to follow the instructions given by police”.

Another two men were shot and killed by police in two separate incidents that occurred over the Christmas holiday weekend.

Coroner’s Court 

Between 2003 and June 30, 2020, there were 36 police-involved inquests completed in the Coroner’s Court.

Of those matters, 20 were ruled lawful killings, seven were deemed unlawful killings, one ruled a homicide and one a justifiable homicide, one self-defense, one death by natural causes, one accidental death and five “open verdict”.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the judiciary has reduced operations as part of mitigation protocols, among them being the suspension of all jury trials.

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis delivers his last national address of the year on Thursday, December 30, 2021, during the weekly Office of the Prime Minister press conference. (BIS/ERIC ROSE)

Prime Minister Philip Davis insisted yesterday that the issue is troubling, adding that the time in which these matters are dealt with is simply not acceptable. 

“Any killing whether by police or otherwise is troubling and requires the proper investigation to determine the circumstances under which that killing may have occurred and allow the chips to fall where they may,” Davis said. 

“So it is not acceptable that you have killings and the timeline and investigations followed to be as long as it is. 

“It impacts memory, memory fades, details are lost and it does not help in solving the issues. 

“Yes, we are concerned and we are talking with the commissioner of police and attorney general to see how we can address these issues because it does go to the root of confidence in the force and one of the best tools of effective policing is the confidence of the general public.”

The commissioner echoed similar concerns about the absence of a coroner’s court since the start of the pandemic. 

Rolle advised that in order to address the matter internally, he has appointed a committee within the Royal Bahamas Police force that has been mandated to look at every one of those police-involved shootings.

That committee includes Clayton Fernander, Leamond Deleveaux, Zhivago Dames, and Father Stephen Davies.

He noted that those officers have already been given five files to review that are concerning and once that is completed, he will make a recommendation to the coroner. 

“I want the Bahamian people to know I won’t be covering nothing, whatever the information is, we are going to make it available to the members of the public,” Rolle said. 

The former coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez was appointed to Supreme Court Justice in May. 

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.