$1m compensation for family of teenager killed by cop

The fam­i­ly of a 17-year-old boy, who was ac­ci­den­tal­ly shot and killed by a po­lice of­fi­cer dur­ing a par­ty in 2014, is set to re­ceive over $1 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion. 

De­liv­er­ing an oral judg­ment at the end of a brief tri­al at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain, yes­ter­day morn­ing, High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad or­dered the com­pen­sa­tion as he ruled that PC Clyde Best was neg­li­gent in Ri­car­do Mo­hammed’s death. 

 

Ac­cord­ing to the ev­i­dence pre­sent­ed dur­ing the tri­al, the in­ci­dent oc­curred on Sep­tem­ber 28, 2014, as Mo­hammed was at­tend­ing a par­ty at the Old Navy Restau­rant and Bar, lo­cat­ed along the West­ern Main Road near to the Ch­aguara­mas Mil­i­tary Mu­se­um. 

Al­though he was sum­moned to tes­ti­fy in the case, Best was not present for the hear­ing and his wit­ness state­ment had to be ten­dered in­to ev­i­dence in­stead. 

In his state­ment, Best claimed that on the morn­ing of the in­ci­dent, he cleared his ser­vice pis­tol and lodged it at the West End Po­lice Sta­tion. The same firearm was re­turned to him when he re­port­ed back at the sta­tion to per­form ex­tra du­ty at the par­ty, lat­er that night. 

“When I placed the firearm in my hol­ster, I can say with cer­tain­ty that there was no bul­let in the cham­ber when I went on ex­tra du­ty,” Best said. 

 

Best said he went to the toi­let at the par­ty and when he was ex­it­ing he spot­ted two men smok­ing mar­i­jua­na. 

Best said that he scold­ed the men and seized the drugs. He claimed that when he was walk­ing away one of the two men op­posed him and at­tempt­ed to pull his firearm from the hol­ster. 

Dur­ing a strug­gle for con­trol of the firearm, it went off. Best claimed that the man dropped the weapon and ran away. 

He then learned from a solid­er that Mo­hammed, who was stand­ing near­by, was shot in his neck. 

Best was sus­pend­ed fol­low­ing the in­ci­dent and a coro­ner’s in­quest has been or­dered in­to Mo­hammed’s death.

In as­sess­ing the ev­i­dence in the case, Seep­er­sad ruled that there were con­tra­dic­tions in Best’s claims over clear­ing the firearm and the de­fence to the case pre­sent­ed by the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al. 

He ruled that Best did not ex­er­cise rea­son­able due care and con­trol of his firearm, which di­rect­ly led to Mo­hammed’s death. 

In as­sess­ing the com­pen­sa­tion for Mo­hammed’s fam­i­ly, Seep­er­sad made note of the ev­i­dence on teenag­er’s life, pre­sent­ed by his fa­ther Ricky, who brought the law­suit in 2017.

The el­der Mo­hammed claimed that at the time of his son’s death he was em­ployed at San­icup and earned $1,200 a week. He al­so claimed that his son sup­ple­ment­ed his in­come by work­ing in his bar­ber sa­lon on week­ends. Mo­hammed, a for­mer stu­dent at the Diego Mar­tin North Sec­ondary School, was al­so a mem­ber of the Val­ley Harps Steel Or­ches­tra. 

Seep­er­sad or­dered $960,000 in spe­cial dam­ages to cov­er Mo­hammed’s fu­ture earn­ings, $25,000 for loss of life and $7,500 to cov­er his fu­ner­al ex­pens­es. 

“This court is of the view that this Re­pub­lic lost a young man with un­lim­it­ed po­ten­tial. The de­ceased had ex­treme po­ten­tial and the abil­i­ty to live a very suc­cess­ful life,” Seep­er­sad said. 

Seep­er­sad grant­ed a 60-day stay of the judg­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the State if it in­tends to ap­peal it.  

 

Mo­hammed’s fa­ther was rep­re­sent­ed by Mario Mer­ritt and Karunaa Bis­ram­s­ingh. 

Reporter: Derek Achong

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