Absence of gun shot residues not conclusive
Stabroek News
May 3, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your editorial "Political Static" of April 28, 2002. While I agree with many of the points you addressed, I must take issue with you on what you describe as powder residue. The absence of Gun Shot Residues (GSR) on the hand does not prove that a person did not shoot a gun because: (1) GSR can be washed off, (2) GSR will disappear with the passage of time, and more importantly (3) some weapons do not expel GSR onto the firing hand. The presence of GSR on the hand does not directly or invariably prove that a person did fire a gun, only that certain chemicals which are components of gun powder are present on the hand.

It is therefore quite clear that you are wrong when you stated that the absence of powder residue "means quite simply that he did not fire a gun before he was shot". Unless you are sure about the tests and analysis conducted by the pathologists, you cannot make that statement with any degree of certainty.

I join with you in demanding that a full and complete investigation into the death of all victims be conducted and that no evidence be disregarded.

However, we must not prejudice any investigation or influence public opinion by making statements that cannot withstand scientific scrutiny.

Once again you have displayed your overconfidence, and bias and have erred. I believe that you should retract that statement in the interest of justice and read the literature on GSR. The police, the survivors of Shaka Blair and the country will be well served.

Yours faithfully,

Amar Singh

Editor's note

There is a prima facie assumption, at least, that Mr Blair did not fire a gun prior to being shot by the police. While it is true that GSR can be washed off or even disappear with the passage of time, Mr Blair's body was removed by the police and was under the control of the authorities until the autopsy. The police in particular had a vested interest in ensuring that any evidence of GSR on hands or clothing was preserved.

While rifles and shotguns may not deposit GSR, the same is not generally true of revolvers. The police said that Mr Blair used a .375 Wesson Magnum revolver, a photograph of which the police supplied to media houses.