Vigilance in uproar
Residents claim cops broke into home to steal
Police say were seeking wanted man
Stabroek News
July 20, 2002

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Angry residents of Vigilance, East Coast Demerara, yesterday alleged that ranks of the Guyana Police Force broke into the home of a resident with the aim of robbing the occupants, but the police say they had visited in search of a wanted man.

The residents yesterday said that the five armed policemen, some of whom they recognised, broke into the home of Chandra Phagoo and her husband Rakha Persaud, which is occupied by their son, Anil Ramroop, and ransacked the house.

A release from the Guyana Police Force yesterday said that at about 0455 hrs a party of policemen went to an address at south Vigilance area in search of one `Vishnu' who is wanted in connection with a series of robberies in the Vigilance/Buxton area.

According to the release, while at the address the ranks heard several explosions similar to gunfire and as a result adopted tactical manoeuvres and returned fire in the direction of the explosions. Later, it was discovered that an in-law of 'Vishnu' had lit a number of firecrackers, the police said.

However, the residents and occupants of the home yesterday told Stabroek News a far different story to that of the police.

Relating what residents described as a "horrifying and shocking" event, Phagoo said she was awakened by the incessant barking of their dogs and peeped through the window.

"When I peep through the window, I see a man walking going at the back, so I wake up me husband and tell he somebody in the yard. So when he wake up I run and tell me son, because they [her son and daughter-in-law] de sleeping in the next room. I tell them that people in the yard," she said.

The woman said when she returned to the window she observed three men go up the stairs and break the lock on the door.

Phagoo said the house is owned by them but is occupied by their son and his wife, Beaji, who are afraid to sleep at home in the night due to the recent spate of crime in the country. The two sleep with their parents during the night.


Continuing her story the woman said, "I tell me son, they deh to you door and I run and give him a squib and I tell him thing it up [light it] so everybody could wake up and know people in we yard."

According to her, her son fired off the squib and the men returned fire at their home.

"So we had to duck and hide and then we run a go till to the front to the verandah. And when we come back we see them going out, and they deh cussing up nasty, nasty," she said.

According to the woman, at one point her husband asked the men who they were and they replied that they were policemen and he asked them how they could just break into the home without informing them. She said they recognised two of the men as policemen from the Vigilance Police Station. The question that was being asked yesterday was why the police left the area without staying to question the occupants of the house on the stated purpose of their visit.

Residents yesterday said that after they heard the firecracker and the gunfire most of them ran out of their yards and peeped through their windows.

According to two women, when the policemen were leaving they chased the women back into their yards asking them what they were doing out on the road. "Them chase we back into we yards," the women said.

Another woman recalled that when the shots were fired she was at her window washing dishes and she immediately ducked and lay on the floor for fear of being injured.

The residents said that the policemen were dressed in dark coloured clothing, bulletproof vests and carried "long" guns. They said they were on foot and they observed them going into the Vigilance Police Station, which is located not far away from the home where the incident occurred.

Phagoo's daughter-in-law, Beaji, said that after the incident she decided to visit the police station to report the incident. She said the police took a statement from her and they later visited her home. She said that when she visited the station she observed some of the same policemen, who were at her home, changing into regular police uniform.

"When they came hey, they just searched the house and searched the yard for bullets wha they fire," the woman said.

She said that in her statement to the police, she had revealed that there was a bullet on a mat in her home. When the policemen visited her home, she said, one of them was only interested in retrieving that bullet.

They claimed that the same five policemen who visited, were the ones who had been there earlier.

"Ah tell he the bullet upstairs, so he walk and go and pick up the bullet from the mat and when he come down back he sey that them bandits nah go done with the stupidness," she said.


When the policeman made that statement the woman said that the residents became even more upset. The residents said that a number of them thronged the home and told the policemen in loud tones that they were the ones who had attacked the house with the intention of stealing.

They said that after some time the policemen admitted that they had visited the house, but said that they were in search of three men and a hijacked car.

"They break my house door, go into my wardrobe looking for de man them and the car. I don't know how the car get into my house, it must be fly in," the woman said. It was pointed out to this newspaper that there was no way a car could be taken into the yard because of the terrain.

The women said that while the policemen were there Persaud made the statement, "you can't put the cat to watchman the milk" and that prompted the policemen to escort him to the station.

They said that the man had a heart problem and showed this newspaper several bottles of tablets, which he takes for his illness. They said that when they informed the police that the man was ill they did not believe.

They said that the policemen asked them if anyone had died and when they replied that no one had, one of the ranks said "you all lucky no one ent dead."

Several bullet holes were shown to this newspaper in the walls and roof of the house while this newspaper also observed the ransacked home.

Vigilance residents were yesterday convinced the policemen went with every intention of robbing the family. This newspaper was told that the family only recently started a small business.

They pointed out that policemen were seldom seen in the area. They said there had been several incidents of robberies, which had been reported to that particular station but no police ever visited the scene and they sometimes were rescued by ranks of the Guyana Defence Force who are in the area. This, they said, made them even more doubtful of the police statement that they had visited the area at 4.55 am in search of `Vishnu'.

The residents said that because of the crime situation most of them are forced to sleep with relatives because they fear for their lives.

"If you come in hey at seven o'clock in the night you nah go see no body on the street," the residents said adding that they locked their homes up early in the evening and stayed inside.

They noted that the station was so close to them but yet they were not spared attacks by bandits. "You think is fun fo you wok so hard and get everything and then bandits come and tek it? They ga fo kill me first," declared one woman.

It was announced that residents from Vigilance and Friendship, which is the village just before Vigilance, would be keeping a meeting to discuss the situation.

The police release left several unanswered questions and some of these were put to acting Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald yesterday afternoon. The commissioner was asked whether the police ranks who visited the home were from Vigilance, but he only opted to say that they were from the East Coast. He said that the ranks were dressed in uniform and while they damaged a lock on the door they did not enter the home. According to the commissioner the ranks did leave the scene after their initial visit and returned later, but he did not say why. He said that the man in custody would be placed on station bail and was likely to be charged with firing off an explosive. Firecrackers are banned in Guyana.