From the Courts
June 7, 2016
Three more officers take stand in Exeter case

Three more police officers have given evidence in what is being called a “highly political case” involving politician Ben Exeter and New Democratic Party (NDP) activist Shabazaah GunMunro-George.

Exeter was charged that on December 29, 2015, he assaulted Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty. He was also charged that he resisted the arrest of Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty.{{more}} He was further charged that he assaulted police constable Granville De Freitas of Chester Cottage, causing actual bodily harm.

George was charged with obstructing Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty and that he, without lawful excuse, had in his possession an offensive weapon, to wit a zapper.

On Friday, Corporal 508 Irackie Mayers, who is the second witness in the case, said he was on duty outside the House of Assembly for the opening of Parliament, when he saw Exeter come through a human barrier formed by police officers.

When he told Exeter he couldn’t go through the barrier, Mayers said Exeter told him: “This is a free country; I could walk wherever I please.”

According to Mayers, Exeter began arguing and acting in an aggressive manner when he was told to move. Mayers added that after he removed Exeter, he heard Corporal 632 Morris shout, “Corporal Mayers the man have a gun!”

Mayers said Morris arrested Exeter on suspicion of having an unlicensed firearm and when Morris held on to the politician, Exeter grabbed Morris by the collar.

Observing this, PC 360 DeFreitas came to Morris’ assistance and both men began taking Exeter to the Central Police Station, which was around the corner and Mayers remained at the House of Assembly.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Kay Bacchus-Browne, Mayers disclosed that he did not see the gun until Morris alerted him.

However, Bacchus-Browne accused the Rapid Response Officer of maliciously interfering with Exeter while he was crossing the road and put to him that the only reason he stopped the politician was because he knew who he was.

Mayers denied both statements, adding that he was only familiar with Exeter because he had run as a candidate in the 2015 general elections.

Bacchus-Browne, however, said Mayers’ story is unbelievable and put to him that Exeter told the officers he had a licence and pointed out the officer who trained him.

Mayers, in turn, maintained that Exeter was asked if he had a licence, but he did not answer.

In relation to George, Mayers said he did not see a young man prevent Morris and DeFreitas from leaving with Exeter.

When asked, he said if he saw someone with a firearm in his or her holster, he would not take it unless he saw them behaving in an aggressive manner/threatening people.

Defence counsel Israel Bruce asked Mayers if Exeter had reached for his gun at anytime. Mayers replied, “No, I didn’t see him do that.”

The police officer also maintained that he did not see Exeter’s firearm before Morris pulled it from the holster.

When the court resumed yesterday, witness number three, Granville DeFreitas, a former member of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVPF), took the stand.

DeFreitas’ story corresponded with that of Morris, who stated that he observed the firearm in Exeter’s waist while he was arguing with Mayers.

DeFreitas said he saw Morris stop Exeter and he saw what appeared to be a firearm on Exeter’s waist. He said Morris, who also observed this, pulled the gun from Exeter’s waist.

He further stated that when Morris held on to Exeter, the politician pushed away the corporal’s hand and grabbed him by the collar.

DeFreitas said he intervened and pulled Exeter’s hands from Morris’ shirt and he heard Morris tell Exeter he would be reporting him for assaulting him and he is arresting him for the same offence.

DeFreitas, who is now a fisherman, said he assisted Morris in taking Exeter to the station and while doing so, George approached them and was taking pictures.

According to DeFreitas, Morris asked George to move, but he refused and so Morris informed him that he would be reporting him for obstructing police.

On their way to the station, DeFreitas said Exeter pushed him onto a vehicle and his hand impacted hard on the vehicle. He said he pointed out to Exeter that what had happened was an assault and that he would be reporting him.

The police officers then took Exeter to a bathroom at the Central Police Station and searched him.

De Freitas said he handed everything over to the police, including the holster belonging to Exeter.

The former police constable told the court that he resigned in March. However, Bacchus-Browne put it to him that he was fired for dishonesty, which he denied.

The trial took a turn when DeFreitas said Exeter forced through the crowd around the time of the Prime Minister’s arrival and was heading in the direction of the Prime Minister (PM), who was standing on the small platform in front of Parliament.

DeFreitas said he saw Exeter walking in the direction of the PM, carrying a firearm, but later changed his statement to “when Exeter forced through the officers, I saw the firearm.”

Bacchus questioned the relationship between DeFreitas and the Prime Minister, inferring that they were cousins and alleging that he is biased because he is related to the Head of Government.

DeFreitas, however, denied being related to the Prime Minister when she asked him directly.

In his statement to the police, DeFreitas said he saw an object that appeared to be a firearm after Corporal Morris had pulled it from its holster.

The defence lawyers strongly held that Exeter was struck by the officers; however, DeFreitas denied hitting Exeter on the way to the station.

“No police officer hit him,” he said, adding that he looked at Exeter’s face and it was neither swollen nor were his eyes bloodshot.

The fourth witness in the case, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Timothy Hazelwood, the officer in charge of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) and Port Security, also took the stand yesterday, stating that he observed Exeter being aggressive that day.

Hazelwood said he noticed Mayers speaking to someone close to where the barriers were and he went over and spoke to Mayers and at that point, the person was standing in the road close to the police band.

The officer of 34 years’ experience told the court that instructions were given that nobody should stand beyond the barriers set that day.

However, while speaking to Mayers he observed Exeter speaking loudly and he got the impression from the way that he was behaving that he was very annoyed.

Hazelwood said he had to speak to Exeter, who continued behaving in the same manner.

“At one time he put his hands up in the air and there was a black object at his right side.”

The RRU head’s evidence also corresponded with that of Corporal Morris, who testified last Tuesday, stating that Exeter did not indicate that he had a licence for his firearm.

Hazelwood said he accompanied the police officers and Exeter to the Central Police Station, where he handed over the firearm (serial number XMK346) with 20 rounds of ammunition.

Checks were made and it was discovered that Exeter held a licence to hold a firearm and he was the owner of the firearm that was taken from him.

Taking into consideration that George is a secondary school student magistrate Bertie Pompey gave the trial a two-week adjournment.

Trial will resume at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 20, 2016.