TELL US WHY
Attorney details concerns about Jamar Maynard’s death before Coroner’s Inquest
A verdict is to be handed down in another two weeks following the Coroner’s inquest into the death of Jamar Maynard at the hands of police.
Magistrate Manila Renee said this afternoon she would issue her oral decision on May 30, after hearing evidence and receiving a written submission from David Comissiong, lawyer for the family of the deceased.
Maynard was shot by Police Constable Krist Drakes on April 3, 2012, and died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) the following morning.
In his detailed submission, Comissiong questioned the circumstances surrounding Maynard’s death and in particular the two police accounts of the incident.
Officer Drakes and Godwin Charles had reported that, on the night of the incident, they had come into contact with Maynard on Literary Row in The City, and had informed Maynard that they wanted to search him. In response, they claimed Maynard attempted to run away and had to be restrained by Officer Drakes.
A struggle reportedly ensued and during the course of the struggle, Drakes alleged that he saw Maynard reaching towards his waist with his right hand and saw his hand coming back from the area of his waist with what appeared to be a black gun.
In a written statement dated April 17, 2012, Drakes had also stated that the lighting at the corner where the incident occurred was good and that he could see clearly that it was a gun being pulled out by Maynard. However, Comissiong has taken issue with Drakes’ suggestion that Maynard was facing him and was standing just about four to four and a half feet away, pointing a gun, when he was shot.
The officer had also said, under cross-examination by Comissiong that he did not aim at any particular body part; he simply reacted and shot straight ahead.
“It would be useful to note here that if the short PC Drakes pointed his gun ‘straight ahead’ at the taller six-foot [Jamar Maynard] a mere four to four and a half feet away, then it would be impossible for the bullet to have travelled so steeply upwards as to be able to penetrate [Maynard’s] upraised left arm at the level of the elbow!”
Based on the police version of things, he also said another important question remains:
“Why would [Maynard] point a gun with his right hand and push his left arm straight up in the air, with the elbow facing forward?
“And if he had made such an unusual and startling movement why didn’t PC Drakes recall it?
“The simple reason is that it never happened!” Comissiong concluded.
He also took issue with the police investigators who he said had not examined the pellet gun, which Drakes said was being wielded by Maynard during the confrontation.
“Surely it must have occurred to them that if Drakes says that [Maynard] was pointing the pellet gun at him thereby causing him to fear for his life, that there was a likelihood that [Maynard’s] fingerprints would be found on the pellet gun.
“Yet –– according to the police investigators –– they did not test the gun for fingerprints!
“Surely this must raise a suspicion that the reason they did not test for [Maynard’s] fingerprints is because they knew there were no such fingerprints on the gun! And therefore did not want to elicit hard physical evidence that could be used against their fellow police officer.”
Comissiong noted that several independent eyewitnesses had reported not seeing the pellet gun lying on the ground and that from all accounts, including that of PC Drakes, the area was well lit.
“Indeed, so well lit that [eyewitness] Melvin Daniel was able to see and confirm that a shell was lying on the ground. Daniel, however, saw no pellet gun on the ground!” the attorney said.
He also said no testing was done by police investigators to ascertain if Maynard’s blood was on the pellet gun or at the scene of the shooting.
Reference was also made by Comissiong in his written submission to what he called “contemporaneous written records” which he said could be used to support or discredit any of the three versions of the story –– the two police statements and that of the eyewitnesses.
He noted, for instance, that no mention was made whatsoever in the entry made by Constable Belgrave (one of the officers who responded to Maynard’s call for assistance after the shooting), in the Station Daily Dairy of the CID at District “A”, of Maynard confessing to him that he had a gun in his waist and that he was shot by the police when he attempted to pull out and throw away the gun.
“Surely if such a critical and startling statement had been made to Constable Belgrave by [Maynard], Belgrave would have been expected to make a note of it in his official police notebook at the Hincks Street scene. This was not done! To have made a note of it when he wrote up his entry in the Station Diary at 5:32 hours. This was not done! To have made a note of it when he later wrote up a report in his official notebook. This was not done!
“Indeed, Constable Belgrave does not make a written record of this alleged conversation with [Maynard] until he produced a written statement on 17th April 2012 –– some two weeks after the incident –– and well after time and opportunity had been provided to confer and to craft an account that served the interest of PC Drakes.”
Comissiong further charged that negligence had contributed to the 27-year-old’s death –– not only on the part of the police, but also the QEH, which he said had failed to give Maynard sufficient blood.
Speaking to the media after today’s court session, the attorney therefore reiterated his call for an independent body, outside of the Royal Barbados Police Force, to investigate instances of serious injury or death to civilians at the hands of lawmen.