COP says police was “ambushed” in Cowpen Road shootout
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – A crowd of relatives and friends of the three men killed during a police shooting on Saturday were filled with outrage, confusion, and sadness, as they questioned why police would “execute” the trio.
Dozens of people gathered on Cowpen Road west at the scene shortly after 1 p.m. that day, crying, shouting, and demanding answers.
One of the men was identified by his mother as 25-year-old Deshoan Smith also known as “Spider”.
Smith’s mother told Eyewitness News that when she received the call that her son was killed, she quickly made her way to the scene but was immediately stopped by officers – who she claimed pointed their weapons at her – at a taped off checkpoint.
She said at the time, after waiting hours on the scene, police still hadn’t given her any information regarding the death of her son and two others.
At the spot where the incident took place, a white car could be seen parallel parked in an open area through an off-road corner.
The bodies of the men lay wrapped in body bags on the ground. And bullet holes could be seen riddled all over the vehicle from the front windshield, left side windows, and left side front and back doors.
Just a few feet away, Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle advised members of the media that preliminary information showed the officers involved were “ambushed” by suspects in a white Honda vehicle.
Rolle said police spotted the same vehicle earlier in the day, parked in the eastern section of the Spikenard Cemetery during a funeral.
He said when officers went on foot to approach the vehicle, it drove off and they got in their vehicles and did the same.
He noted that a short while later, around noon, officers were still patrolling the Cowpen Road area when they saw the vehicle suspiciously parked.
Rolle said the officers stopped, exited the vehicle and one of the other officers approached the driver’s door while the other two officers stood guard.
Police said as the officer attempted to speak with the driver, shots were being from the back seat.
The officer was able to make an escape while the other officers discharged their weapons, firing several shots at the vehicle, according to police.
Rolle said there was an exchange of gunfire and once the shooting stopped, it was discovered that three people were shot.
He said none of the suspects ever made it out of the vehicle. The EMS was called but all three men died on the scene.
He advised that they were all known to police – but an official identification is pending.
Rolle said police believe the men were waiting to target someone at the nearby funeral.
The commissioner of police said none of the officers received any injuries but could not confirm whether one or both officers standing guard discharged their weapon.
He also could not confirm how many guns were found on the scene – though he acknowledged that a single pistol had been recovered initially.
Saturday’s shooting comes on the heels of historic commentary from Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles over officers pulling the trigger as a last resort.
But Rolle insisted, “This is not that type of situation here today. This was a situation where an officer was ambushed.”
“You see the car there for yourself. The window is tinted. There was no passenger in the front passenger seat, two persons in the rear of the vehicle, that’s where the shots emanated from, the officers were ambushed.”
He said officers are trained in tactical policing, how to approach vehicles and how to apprehended suspects.
“We don’t train with rubber bullets,” Rolle added.
“If persons want to engage the members of The Royal Bahamas Police Force, they need to be prepared to see their maker.
“I am not training my officers to go out there [to get hurt]. I would like them to return home at the end of the day…This is a dangerous business.”
In 2019, former Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson described those shot and killed by police as “casualties of war”. He said at the time if people are confronting police, “more than likely there will be casualties”.
Further down from the scene of the shootout, more and more people began to gather as police cleared the scene, the hearse removed the bodies and the vehicle was towed away.
A resident in the area, who asked not to be named, said she could hear seven to eight shots ring out from where her home is on Cowpen Road.
She noted however that this was not out of place, as people usually shoot birds and targets in the area.
The young woman said it wasn’t until she received a call from her sister advising her that her cousin “Spider” was among those killed that she made it out to the scene to find the police tape already up and no one allowed past it.
Other family members refused to believe that any of the men would shoot at police.
One woman, who claimed to be a relative of the owner of the vehicle, confirmed that the men are known to police.
She swore that the men would not shoot at police and would not have resisted arrest.
“They are not going to do that, they are not those type of persons,” she said.
Her Majesty’s Coroner was on the scene and is investigating the matter.
The incident also occurred on the first weekend out of lockdown amid the country’s ongoing COVID-19 state of emergency.
The COP acknowledged that there has been a concern over the possible increase in crime as a result of the ease in restrictions.
Rolle however advised that police presence on the street has been beefed up. He warned persons interested in committing crimes to just stay home.