Shop owner's life spared by bandit's faulty revolver By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
December 11, 2003

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Attacked: Rooplall's tightly shut business place yesterday.

A faulty revolver which did not go off when fired twice during a robbery at a Cove and John general store on Tuesday night saved the life of businessman Michael Rooplall.

Four young bandits, all armed with handguns, severely beat Rooplall in his head and body and robbed his customers, including a group of small children, before escaping with a quantity of local and foreign currency and gold jewellery. It was the latest in a series of attacks that have resurfaced on the East Coast of Demerara.

The 42-year-old father of four told Stabroek News yesterday that although he was not robbed during the crime wave that erupted last year and continued into early this year, he had taken his wife and children from the Cove and John business premises, to another house a few villages away, for their safety. It was at that house that this newspaper found him yesterday.

Rooplall said the bandits struck at 6:50 pm while he was closing up his shop at Lot 12 Craig Milne. At the time, his guard was at the gate and several customers were in the shop.

"While closing one of the windows, all I heard is somebody say, 'Don't move! Pass over yuh gun!'" the ex-cop recalled. When he looked up, four men stood there with guns trained on him.

The man said he immediately lifted his shirt to show the bandits that he was unarmed and while one of the attackers turned his attention on Rooplall's employee, another threw the businessman on the floor and started to demand money.

According to Rooplall, his attacker relieved him of $150,000, CDN$105, US$130, as well as the money he had accumulated in the shop from that day's sales. During the ordeal, the businessman said he tried throwing some of his money and jewellery into a corner, but the gunmen found and carted away all of it.

"He put meh to lie down flat on de ground, tek away all meh rings...then the one [bandit] by the counter say, 'Bring dah man leh we kill he!' He hold meh and toss me on the counter and pull meh over and fire two times at meh head, but de gun snap," Rooplall told this newspaper.

He said at that point he started to reason with the gunmen. Pointing to his broken foot, which was bandaged at the time, the businessman told the men, "You all done take everything, why you all want kill me?' I say meh foot break and one [of the bandits] say, 'I can understand yuh' and he start beat me in meh head with the gun."

The gunmen also turned their attention to Rooplall's customers and stripped them of valuables. According to the businessman, a group of small children in the shop were also assaulted.

"They [the bandits] box up some small children and tell them don't keep noise [and] they just keep beating me and asking me fo de gun..."

He said while three masked bandits terrorised everyone in the shop, an unmasked gunman calmly walked around the shop with a bag which he used to pack a quantity of cosmetic articles.

"They tek a bag and pack de bowl with coins, all de $10 and $5 coins they pack up, perfumes, powder and deodorant."

The assault on Rooplall was the third in the village of Cove and John in a week. Last Sunday morning, one of two bandits shot dead Chinese national Su Pu Zhog, who operated a restaurant just a short distance from Rooplall's shop, and a few days before that, residents said, a Canadian woman was attacked and robbed in her home.

Stabroek News understands that Su was robbed three times last year during the crime wave that erupted after five men escaped from the Camp Street jail in February, 2002.

On those occasions, the bandits reportedly took cash from the restaurateur, but sources said Su resisted his attackers on Sunday morning and ordered his wife not to open for the bandits, leading to him being fatally shot in the neck.

Despite that attack, Rooplall said he was not fearful, because he had a business to run and an income to earn.

In the past two weeks, a minibus driver, Francis Parmanand Singh, was shot dead while passing through the village of Buxton, while several households were robbed at Coldingen. Since then, the police have stepped up patrols in those villages.