Family wants justice for prisoner shot dead by police
By Andre Haynes
Stabroek News
June 27, 2003

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The relatives of Michael Clarke, the escaping prisoner who was fatally shot by police on Wednesday, are demanding justice in the wake of his death, which they describe as “wilful murder”.

Clarke, 20, a resident of Sophia, who was a part-time minibus conductor, was fatally shot after he was cornered in a yard by police who had pursued him after he fled a prison van in front of the Camp Street jail. Clarke, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, died while undergoing emergency surgery at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

A bystander, 27-year-old Central High teacher Troy Semple, was also shot during the police’s pursuit of Clarke. He is now a patient in a recovery ward at the hospital, where his condition is listed as stable.

Clarke was charged for attempting to commit a felony, to wit, robbery-under-arms.

He was placed on bail at the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court but was unable to raise the amount and remained imprisoned.

Yesterday, police would only say that the matter is being investigated with regards to the manner in which the prisoner was shot in order to determine whether the shooting was justified.

However Clarke’s father, former professional boxer Terrence Clarke, yesterday demanded justice for his son who he said was murdered.

According to eyewitnesses, prisoners were being led out of the prison van when an unshackled Clarke escaped the grasp of a guard and dashed south to Durban Street. Clarke’s father, who only learnt of the shooting through the news on Wednesday night, was puzzled as to why his son was the only prisoner who was not hand-cuffed and police authorities have yet to officially address this issue.

Witnesses told Stabroek News that an unarmed Clarke was cornered in a yard at Lot 17 Durban Street, Werk-en-Rust, situated on the southern side of the prison, when he was fatally shot. They said he had hidden himself behind two water tanks situated at the rear of a backyard storage bond, when police closed in. Eyewitnesses said Clarke surrendered, placing both hands above his head, when one of the policemen shoved him to the ground and opened fire.

Clarke’s father said he was told that his son sustained at least seven gunshot wounds, three immediately after he was shot to the ground.

“[Witnesses] told me that when he was on the ground after they shoot he. He tell them, `Alright! Alright! I going go. Carry me. Carry me...” He said at this point his son received four more shots before being violently dragged out of the yard and placed into a waiting police vehicle.

While openly admitting that his son was a criminal, the elder Clarke told Stabroek News he did not deserve to die in the manner in which he did, pointing out that the young man had pleaded for his life.

Clarke said he found Michael as a baby at Industrial Site, where he had been abandoned by his mother shortly after birth.

He took the child to the GPHC where he spent the first three years of his life, until the elder Clarke found a job at the hospital. Growing attached to the boy over the next three years of his life, he and his wife officially adopted the child.

Clarke said as he grew older, the boy drifted towards petty crime and graduated to more brazen robberies despite numerous warnings.

The man however noted that Michael remained a devoted and loving son, “He was always willing to do things for me... he was always willing to help me,” said Clarke.

He added that by the time he was alerted by prison authorities that his son had been imprisoned for his most recent transgression, he was fed up and did not visit him.

“I knew he was probably calling me to bail him and I couldn’t. I don’t have the money for that. If I bailed him he would have run away and the money would have been confiscated.”

The action of the police on Wednesday came under heavy criticism following the incident, leaving many outraged at the manner in which they responded. Eyewitnesses openly criticised the police use of deadly force and the resulting injury to the bystander, which they said could have been avoided.

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