Police launch investigation into Choppins melee
Press Release
January 16, 2024
Police launch investigation into Choppins melee

Acting Police Commissioner of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Enville Williams, has ordered an investigation into a melee at Choppins involving a reported unruly crowd and the police in which one officer was injured.

In the wake of this incident last Saturday, January 13, the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) has issued the following statement dated January, 16, 2024:

On Saturday 13th January 2024, about 8:30 p.m., acting on information received, a party of Officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) went to Choppins in search of a suspect who was reportedly in possession of an illegal firearm. Upon entering the village, they saw a male fitting the description of the suspected person.

The Officers approached the suspect and identified themselves to him as Police Officers. The Officer in charge of the patrol informed the suspect about the information that was received and requested a search of his person. A crowd immediately gathered around the Police and the suspect and started to behave in a hostile manner towards the Police. A Police Officer then held onto the suspect and attempted to search him. The suspect pulled away and slapped the Officer in his face.

The Officers again held on to the suspect in an attempt to conduct the search; however, the angry crowd violently pulled the suspect away from the Officers. While this was happening, someone from the crowd grabbed the purse that the suspect was carrying, which the Officers suspected to have contained the illegal firearm, as reported, and ran.

During the upheaval, a Police Officer was thrown to the ground by the crowd, and was injured in the process. In an effort to disperse the crowd and de-escalate the situation, Police discharged two (2) shots in the air.

The RSVGPF wishes to remind the general public of the obligations and powers conferred upon police officers in the execution of their duties and in accordance with the Firearms Act, Chapter 386 of the Revised Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1995, and the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), Section 172 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of SVG, 2009 – relating to the arrest and searching of suspects among other things.

1. Section 30 (1) of the Firearms Act states “Where a police officer reasonably suspects that any person is carrying a firearm or ammunition concealed about his person, he may—

(a) Ask that person if he is carrying a firearm;

(b) If that person is carrying a firearm or ammunition, require that person to produce the firearm or ammunition and, unless he is exempted under section 15, his licence or permit.

(2) If any person fails to comply as requested under subsection (1), he commits an offence and the police officer may seize and retain the firearm or ammunition until such time as legal proceedings against that person are concluded.

(3) If any person denies that he is carrying a firearm or ammunition about his person, the police officer may search that person and seize and retain any firearm found until such time as legal proceedings are concluded against that person and shall require that person to declare to him his name and address.

2. Section 27 of the CPC authorizes any police officer to stop, search and detain any vessel, vehicle, or any person who may reasonably be suspected of having in his possession or conveying in any manner anything stolen or unlawfully obtained or in respect of which an offence is being or has been committed.

The officers received credible information that the suspect was carrying an illegal firearm. Therefore, their suspicion and attempt to arrest and search the suspect were reasonable and justified by law.

3. Section 22 (1) of the “CPC” states “In making an arrest, the police officer or other person making the arrest shall touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested unless there is a submission to the custody by word or action.”

The officer rightly held onto the suspect’s hand to effect the arrest but he pulled away.

4. Section 22(2) of the CPC states “If such person (the person who is under arrest) forcibly resists the endeavour to arrest him, or endeavours to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest.

The RSVGPF further notes that had it not been for the restraint exercised by the police officers, the situation could have turned out to be very tragic for the suspect, the unruly mob, and themselves.

The RSVGPF further reiterates that it is an offence to obstruct a police officer while he/she is executing their duty. Accordingly, the Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr. Enville Williams has ordered a full investigation into the matter.

The RSVGPF calls on all citizens and residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to respect and abide by the laws of the state. There are too many instances where some members of the public are engaged in “fighting” the police. The RSVGPF encourages the public to work with the police in creating safer communities and combating crime and violence in the land.