Claims of vigilantism in Canal No. 1 beating “unsubstantiated”- Police

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The Guyana Police Force has finally released a statement on the beating of two men at Canal Number One Polder, last Sunday (March 12, 2017).

According to the police report, based on statements received from members of the public, some of whom were involved in this incident, “connotations of vigilantism published in the media are unsubstantiated.”

At about 21:00hrs on Sunday (March 12, 2017), 35-year-old Vernon Beckles, a construction worker of Charlotte Street and 29-year-old Damion Gordon, an accounts clerk of 84 Robb Street, Georgetown, were beaten in Canal No.1 following claims that they stole a mirror from a car in the area.

The police statement noted that investigations have so far revealed that the victims were taken from Georgetown to the home of Ewart Lewis, a member of the Guyana Defence Force, who lives at Two Brothers, Canal No. 1 Polder, West Bank Demerara (W.B.D), by an in-law of Lewis’ reputed wife.

It added that later, whilst at Ewart’s place, the Ewart family and the victims (Gordon and Beckles) decided to venture to Georgetown to seek further entertainment.  While doing so, stopped at a shop at Two Brothers, where Ewart, his reputed wife and her in-law went into the shop leaving the two victims on the Public Road.

However, in a recent interview with the News Room, the victims related that they began imbibing in Georgetown and only traveled to the West Bank community to look at a place where they were schedule to hold a function on Friday, March 17, 2017. The Victims then told the News Room that they decided to stop at the shop to “wash down” and everyone except Gordon went into the shop. Gordon said he was attacked after he went to relieve himself some short distance away, by someone who claimed that he stole a mirror from their car.

The police said they spoke to the GDF Officer, Ewart Lewis (friend of the victims) who claimed that while at the shop in Canal, a resident (name given) ran into the shop and shouted that two men were stealing the mirrors from his motor car. Shortly after, another resident (name given) told him (Lewis) that the men who stole the mirrors were the men he brought in his car.

Immediately, the police investigations said several persons in the vicinity swarmed the two men and began questioning them and during this period (Gordon) fled and jumped into the canal. Both men also denied stealing the mirrors. While in the trench, the alleged irate residents threw bricks and other objects at Gordon, while the other was detained by residents, the police said.

According to the Police statement, “a Rural Constable from the area took initial action and pleaded with Gordon to come out of the canal but he refused; by this time the police patrol arrived and Gordon came out of the canal.” However, the victims’ recount of the incident to News Room differs.

Gordon related that one of the men began ‘chucking’ his friend which led him to intervene. He said then another person tackled him, and they ended up in the nearby canal where the scuffle continued.

“He held my head and push it down three times, that’s when I (gave up) because I was shorta breath. Now crawling up, da is the first time he lash me in ma head with a bottle and said stay down ‘yuh black S…’, I get some like kicks in ma face, he lash and break a next bottle on me, at that time I lie down and the soldier guy raise he voice and seh ‘if anything happen to anyone, ah them is on yual’ so that is when they brought me up and put me to lie in the sand and everyone looking at ma like I is a thief,” Gordon related.

35-year-old Beckles speaking about his experience said he was met with “where the mirror deh, where the mirror deh’, ‘ahyo black man like thief, ahyo black man like thief’ when he was walking towards the shop. Beckles said he went to relieve himself. Thus he was left behind as his friends went ahead. However, as the persons approached he said “…so right away I raise up my clothes, thing down my pants, I say I is not no thief, I ain’t got nothing” but one of the males “lash me in the head with a bottle, i fell to the ground, they start beating me, beating, overboard, they start bubbling me, then drag me out the canal, a policing group come, placed the handcuff on my hand.”

The men claimed that the beating was “racially incited.”

The men were then taken into custody and subsequently escorted to the West Demerara Regional Hospital where they were treated and sent away.

The police said that the rear-view mirrors which were allegedly stolen were later found by Lewis, under another vehicle which was parked nearby, though the men claimed that there was no vehicle in the vicinity of the shop other than the one which they used to get to the location.

“The thing too, no vehicle was in front of the place where we was going to buy the drinks to wash down, so I want know which car we carry away mirror from. The only vehicle was there at the time was the GDF guy vehicle,” Beckles told News Room.

The Divisional Commander, Assistant Commissioner, Leslie James and a team of Officers have since visited the location and obtained statements.

The Police stated that it is not the first time that persons who are suspected of having committed an offence invoke the wrath of members of the public, and “while we frown and warn against these behaviors as being unacceptable, the reality is that one cannot necessarily immediately determine what a spontaneous action will be.”

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