Trinidad: Mentally ill man shot dead by cops
(Trinidad Guardian) Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. So when Roger “Bubbles” Nagessar charged at police with a cutlass in his hand, relatives felt the police could have taken pity and shot him in the legs.
Instead, Nagessar, 44, died at the San Fernando General Hospital after being shot several times in the leg and chest Wednesday night.
A report stated that around 8.30 pm Wednesday, Ste Madeleine police and the Rapid Response Unit responded to a report that Nagessar was walking in the road with a cutlass. He had been acting violently and throwing bottles at his neighbours’ homes along Herrera Street, Friendship Village, San Fernando.
When officers arrived and called Nagessar out of his house, where he lived alone, he emerged with a cutlass. Despite the officers’ instructions to drop the cutlass three times Nagessar refused. He reportedly said: “Like they want to execute my son.” He then walked toward the officers and they fired six shots at him. He was taken to the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) where he died.
A relative, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday that while the officers were within their rights to defend themselves they could have shot Nagessar in his leg. He said Nagessar was an outpatient of the SFGH and behaved well when he took his medication. However, he often forgot to do so and that was when things got bad. For example, he noted that Nagessar had no children.
Six years ago when Nagessar suffered his first violent episode he also walked the streets with a cutlass. On that occasion police also responded but he was shot in the legs. He was shown leniency when he appeared in the court and was not sentenced to prison or fined.
But on Wednesday night the relative said the officers did not fire a warning shot. A non-lethal shot or non-lethal weapons such as tasers or pepper spray, the relative added, could have made a difference in this case.
Since 2014, the Police Social Welfare Association has been lobbying for the use of non-lethal weapons that would reduce the number of deadly encounters with mentally ill people as well as injury to officers.
“In my view and the view of many other people, excessive force was used because of the areas they shot him. They are the professionals in this area, but I am looking at it as they shot a person who is mentally ill,” the relative said.
“I know that as police officers their first response is self-preservation. I’m not saying that their lives were not threatened, but a level of professional approach is within their duty and I think there are certain areas on a person they can target that would not damage vital organs.”
An autopsy was expected to be done yesterday and relatives were to meet on whether they will file a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority.
Roger “Bubbles” Nagessar