TRINIDAD: 3 police officers suspended in connection with massacre

(T&T NEWSDAY) – Three police officers, including two women, have been suspended with immediate effect for failing to act on complaints of domestic abuse filed by Abigail Chapman weeks before she, her daughter, the daughter’s schoolmate and Chapman’s landlord were murdered at a house in La Brea on Tuesday night.

According to a release from the TT Police Service, issued yesterday, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday requested from the ACP (South and South-Western) Harikrishen Baldeo, copies of all reports, statements and all relevant documents relating to the investigation of a report made by Chapman at the La Brea Police Station on March 8.

The TTPS release added that after perusing the documents, Commissioner Williams suspended from duty, with immediate effect, W/Sgt Rosalie Joseph-Taitt, Cpl Vierendra Ramlal and WPC Nailah Homer from duty pending the completion of an investigation into allegations of neglect of duty. The probe is being conducted by officers of the Professional Standards Bureau.

Four days before her murder, Chapman made a report at the La Brea Police station that a man whom she was in a relationship less than a year ago, and who is the prime suspect in the murders, placed a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. During the struggle, Abigail suffered a scratch to her neck from the knife.

On Tuesday night, officers from the La Brea police station discovered the bodies of Chapman, 41; her daughter Olivia, 16; their landlord Michael Scott, 69, and Olivia’s schoolmate Michaela Mason, 14. Abigail and Scott were beaten to death while Olivia and Michaela’s throats were slit.

Following the discovery of the bodies, Abigail’s mother Cristine Jones lamented that had police acted after the first report of domestic violence, the massacre could have been avoided.

A senior police officer told Newsday the suspect could have been arrested by warrant shortly after the domestic violence report was made to La Brea police. He said once the police established that a weapon was used in the attack, it is considered aggravated assault and is a strong case for an arrest to be made.

In such an instance, the senior source said, a first instance warrant could have been taken out and the suspect charged. He said the victim should have been taken to a health centre for a medical which would then be handed over to the police for further action. The senior officer lamented that no such steps were taken by La Brea police.

He called on police officers to familiarise themselves with the Domestic Violence Act which lists the various protocols as it relates to dealing with domestic violence.

The source stated that for far too long, officers are lazy and unwilling to act, he said that in some cases officers do not even record reports of domestic violence in the station diary, thus leading to incorrect statistics. He called on police to treat reports of domestic violence very seriously so as to avoid further bloodshed and suffering.

Yesterday, when told of the suspensions, Jones said she felt a sense of relief knowing that the authorities are taking her daughter’s case seriously, although it is a case of too little, too late.

To date, the suspect remains at large and Jones said she is very afraid he may attack her as he knows where she lives.

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