Trinidad: Men­tally ill man shot dead by cops

Stabroek News - - REGIONAL NEWS -

(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

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