'Chequered past' bandit had been granted gun licence in 2003
April 7, 2004
The guns, cutlass, ammunition, shoes and other items found after police shot and mortally wounded Gopaul Chowtie after he and another man had attacked a Success, East Coast Demerara couple on Sunday night. (Police photo)
Gopaul Chowtie, the bandit who was fatally shot during a police confrontation at Success, East Coast Demerara on Sunday, had a chequered past but was still granted a gun licence last year, according to sources.
Stabroek News has been informed that the man, whose address has been given as Western Hog Island, Essequibo River, did not receive his licence through the normal channels.
"The application was not dealt with by the police, it was dealt with outside the normal practice," sources told this newspaper yesterday.
And when Commissioner of Police Winston Felix was asked during a visit to injured policeman, Gavin Ricknauth whether the man's licence was granted by Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj he said that that was a question that should be put to the minister. The commissioner said he did not know when or by whom the licence was granted, since he had not being able to obtain the information as yet.
Ricknauth was part of the police team which responded to the Success robbery report and was shot by Chowtie or his accomplice.
The police had said that a .32 Taurus found on the scene belonged to Chowtie.
Chowtie was killed and another man was arrested after the police engaged them in a gun battle just after they had beaten and robbed a poultry farmer and his wife. The accomplice is still in custody as investigation continues.
Stabroek News understands that a third man, described as the ringleader since he was issuing orders as to how the robbery should be conducted, managed to escape the police. The bandits, who were armed with an AK-47 rifle and other weapons, wore black masks and gloves and carried haversacks.
The shooting occurred at around 8.30 pm in the yard of Success poultry farmer Jules Chabrol located on the public road, and ended in the stockyard next door.
A resident alerted the police to the robbery and they responded in ten minutes. As the officers approached the yard the bandits opened fire and the gun battle commenced. Chowtie's accomplice had ducked under some thick moss in a trench but was pulled out of the water.
Police found Chowtie on some old boards in a clump of bushes early Monday morning after he had spent the night there, bleeding from his wounds.
Yesterday the commissioner assured Ricknauth that he would receive the best treatment available.
The officer told reporters from his hospital bed that when he approached the yard he saw a head in the trench and shots were fired at him.
The young man, from Airy Hall, Mahaicony, said after he was shot he emptied his magazine in the direction of the bandit in the trench.
The young officer was injured even though he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, raising questions as to how effective these vests really are.
Asked about this, the commissioner told Stabroek News that the vest the policeman was wearing was rated for a hand gun. However, he was hit by a 7.62x39 bullet fired from an AK-47 gun which penetrated the vest.
Felix said it is not difficult to upgrade the vests worn by the officers but the question is whether they would be able to carry the weight of the other vests, which are very heavy. He posited that the officers would only be able to wear the heavier vests for about two hours at a time and not for six hours or more during operations.
Meanwhile, sources told Stabroek News that Chowtie, who was charged in 1991 with treason but was freed in 1992, was a political party activist and had military training.
There was also information which revealed that Chowtie and his accomplices had set up camp in the stockyard and had had Chabrol's home staked out for some time.
Stabroek News understands that in 1991 the now dead man was charged along with a number of other persons with making plans to overthrow the then government. It was stated that the man was charged along with then members of the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force. The case was still in the preliminary inquiry stage when the men were granted an amnesty by the PPP/C government after the 1992 elections.
A man, who was part of the group but had later turned state's witness, had related that the men had a training camp in Crabwood Creek where they were given military training by the GDF officer and had taken an oath of allegiance. The exercise was said to be funded by a sawmiller who had just returned from Canada.
Two other men, who were also implicated in the case, were never charged. One of them was captured by the police and had escaped from Eve Leary. He later resurfaced after the men were freed.
Chowtie was also said to be known to the police for piracy on the high seas. But while the police yesterday said they had a rap sheet on the man they could not give any further information.
A release from the police on Monday night said they unearthed one .22 Rossi revolver with five live rounds, one 22/20 savage combination shotgun with one live cartridge, one AK-47 assault rifle, two matching magazines and 57 live rounds of 7.62x39 ammunition, one .32 Taurus pistol with 11 matching rounds, one 32 spent shell, a large quantity of local and foreign currency, 17 ounces of raw gold, two pairs of black gloves, a wallet containing a national identification card and firearm licence and one holster and a hood among other items.
This newspaper was informed that some $2.8 million and US$1,750 were found at the scene.