Copís condition stable
Medivac requested four hours later - army source Stabroek News
June 16, 2002

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The policeman shot by gunmen on Friday at Linden was in stable but unconscious condition in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation yesterday, after undergoing emergency surgery on Friday night.

Constable Raul Thomas sustained injuries in the groin and abdomen from the bullets and was placed on a support machine after the operation.

Thomasí mother-in-law, Sheila Fraser, said the doctor had assured them that the shot cop would be on the machine for a few days under close observation. She said Thomasí blood pressure was fluctuating at first but stabilised eventually.

Thomas bled profusely from his wounds and 15 pints of blood were required for his operation.

Relatives and friends did not hesitate to line up throughout Friday night at the National Blood Transfusion Service to donate blood for the critically wounded officer. Thomas is a member of a basketball team and they, too, were at the hospital to donate blood for their colleague.

Yesterday scores of well-wishers could be seen at the hospital awaiting their turn to visit him the ICU.

Fraser said Thomasís large and small intestines were damaged and she received a report that they were protruding from his stomach when he was admitted to the Linden hospital.

Thomas and a party of ranks were on patrol on Burnham Drive, Wismar, when they approached a suspicious looking car and were greeted with a hail of gunfire.

The car sped away but was pursued and intercepted at the Linden-Soesdyke highway where it was abandoned by the gunmen, who fled into the bushes.

Thomas was seriously injured and two other ranks, constables Leslie Henry, 26, and Trevor Cumberbatch, 24, were admitted to the Linden hospital with minor injuries.

The 32-year-old Thomas was stationed at Mahdia before he was transferred to Linden over a year ago. He has four children, two boys and two girls, aged 15, 12, nine, and five years old.

Fraser said Thomas was in Georgetown on the weekend of June 8, and did not appear too worried about the danger he faced in view of the apparent targeting of members of the Guyana Police Force by criminals.

She stated he was well liked in the Linden community and he had said the town was a quiet place with not many problems that could not be handled by the police.

The attack came as a shock to residents of Linden and it was they who first went to Thomasí aid went he went down in the hail of bullets not far from the Wismar Police Station, she said.

She pointed out, too, that it was the residents who organised a mini-bus to take him to the hospital.

Relatives were critical of the response time by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) to provide a helicopter to medivac Thomas from Linden to Georgetown. Relatives became agitated as they waited for the chopper and one said it arrived three hours after he was shot.

However, a source close to the army pointed out that the GDF could only have responded after a request was made by the police. The source said this request came at around 7:00 p.m. and the helicopter was over Linden 26 minutes after.

The source pointed out that the chopper was in the Linden-Soesdyke highway area assisting the police in the search for the gunmen after the attack but returned to Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown after they were not found. Up to that time, no request had been made by the police for a medivac for Thomas.

The chopper spent about two hours at Camp Ayanganna with a full crew at the ready and responded immediately when the request from the police came to airlift Thomas out of Linden, the source said.

It was pointed out that because it was already night, the operation was a technical one and much care had to be exercised to take the helicopter into the area. The source said the place where the helicopter had to land was north-east of the Linden hospital in a confined area that was soggy.

Wires were situated at the right, left and rear of the spot where the chopper had to land and there were no lights to guide the aircraft.

The helicopter had to land and take off vertically but this proved difficult because of the lack of crowd control on the ground, the source said. The source emphasised that going into such situations was critical and required total control of the crowd. The place was described to have about 40 cars parked and hundreds of persons spilling around.

After the shooting to death of a Vergenoegen businesswoman and injuries to her husband on Thursday, an army official had said the police had not contacted the GDF until three hours after the attack. This officer concluded that a lack of coordination between the police and army might have contributed to the getaway of the gang of bandits who escaped by sea.

In the crime spree that erupted after the February 23 jailbreak, four policemen have been shot dead.