Trio in BASS shoot-out died of bullet wounds
-post-mortem results

Stabroek News
August 16, 2001

The two men and a boy shot dead on Tuesday morning by Berbice law enforcers succumbed to bullet wounds and yesterday concerns were being raised about the lethal force used in the incident.

The body of notorious criminal Azad Bacchus, one of the three persons fatally shot by members of the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad (BASS) during the early hours of Tuesday, was found to have a .32 warhead lodged in the lower part of his abdomen when a post-mortem examination was performed on his body yesterday.

Relatives of the high seas pirate were not allowed to witness the autopsy which was conducted at the Skeldon Hospital by Government Pathologist Dr V. Brijmohan.

A reliable source revealed that Bacchus bled profusely due to the wound sustained in the confrontation with BASS officers. Shock and hemorrhage due to gunshot injuries were also listed on the report.

Eighteen-year-old Shaazah Bacchus, the fourth child of Bacchus, was recorded to have died from a laceration to the brain while his cousin Fadil Alli sustained a fractured skull. Both injuries were due to gunshots. Originally it was thought that neither of the two teens had sustained gunshot wounds but were beaten to death.

The police in a press release on Tuesday had said that the trio was shot dead at Scottsburg in the Upper Corentyne during a confrontation with BASS. The police version of the events was that Shaazah Bacchus was nabbed at around 11.30 pm on Monday by BASS while in an attempt to smuggle 26 bales of plastic bags out of the country.

During the process, the younger Bacchus attempted to escape, sustained injuries and was escorted to the Skeldon Hospital for medical treatment.

While undergoing treatment, the police say that about 30 persons including his father stormed the hospital, discharged several rounds and fled with Shaazah Bacchus.

At around 4.05 am on Tuesday, according to the police, BASS members spotted the mini-bus in the Scottsburg area and attempted to stop it. "They were greeted with a hail of gunfire. The patrol returned fire and about five persons were observed scampering away from the mini-bus", the police said.

After the exchange of shots, the police said the mini-bus was searched, the two men and the boy were found and they were escorted to the Skeldon hospital where they were pronounced dead. A quantity of ammunition and weapons, including a .32 pistol and one .22 pistol were found, the police added.

The police version has been contradicted by relatives of the accused and eyewitnesses.

Sabita Shivgobin called Shoba Bacchus, reputed wife of Azad Bacchus denied the statement and was recorded as saying that her husband along with the youths exited the mini-bus in front of their home where they were surrounded by members of BASS. The mother of Azad Bacchus, Katia Bacchus, claimed that she heard someone saying "me catch you" after her son had revealed to her that he was shot. Bacchus' wife said that her husband was alive when she saw him at 2:30 am. She denied that there was a confrontation at their home and further denied that he attempted to escape when the squad approached him at their home.

It was noted that the street was a dead end and there was no possibility of the three escaping. The wife said the men were bundled into a BASS van for a destination unknown and the next thing she heard was their bodies were at the mortuary.

Yesterday, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) appealed to Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj to mount an immediate and rigorous inquiry into the killings adding that the deaths of minors "from brutality at the hands of state agents is totally unacceptable". It also called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to lay appropriate charges without delay. "Swift and efficient action is the only way to avoid retaliatory action", the human rights group asserted.

The GHRA said it was in the process of verifying information but had been told by the family that Shaazah Bacchus had been detained by the BASS unit at the home of his uncle "and was so badly beaten all over his body and face" that he was taken to the Springlands hospital (Skeldon Hospital in the police version) by BASS where he received stitches.

Subsequently, his father and uncle went to the hospital and forcibly removed him so that he could be seen by a private doctor, the GHRA said it was further told. Relatives maintain that BASS members opened fire on the mini-bus in which Azad and Shaazah Bacchus and Fadil Ally were travelling towards the home of Azad Bacchus' mother and that they were the only three occupants.

"Police statements to date do not mention the fact that two young men have been killed. They also appear to accept the idea of a shoot-out being responsible for the deaths as well as a quantity of arms and ammunition being found in the vehicle. If this is part of a strategy to play down the seriousness of the event, it is misguided and dangerous", the GHRA contended.

The human rights group said that it will be providing the Commissioner of Police with the names of 11 BASS members it is alleged were involved in the arrest and attack on the family.

"This is the first violent incident on the part of BASS that has come to public attention and for this reason needs to be impartially investigated by all relevant bodies", the GHRA said.

The People's National Congress REFORM (PNC/R) in its statement called on Gajraj to probe the circumstances of the killings noting that once again the official version of events is at variance with that of alleged eyewitnesses. The PNC/R has come down hard on the police in recent months over a stream of killings of wanted men which the opposition party has labelled as extra-judicial killings.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the bodies of the three will be buried today according to Muslim rights. (Jeune Bailey Van-Keric)