PORT OF SPAIN –– One man was shot dead and another injured yesterday while transporting pan equipment from the Laventille home of ten-time Panorama champions Witco Desperadoes to the band’s new safe haven located at Queen’s Park East, Port of Spain.
Dead is 25-year-old Atiba Pantin from Diego Martin.
The other man, whose identity has been withheld, is currently at the Port of Spain Hospital nursing gunshot wounds.
The management of Desperadoes, however, is adamant that the fatal shooting incident has nothing to do with the steel band.
In 2009, after more than 60 years of calling Laventille home, crime forced the Desperadoes to flee the hill and seek refuge in Belmont.
The move was made, as Laventille was considered no longer safe for players and supporters because of rising crime.
The Pride Of Laventille relocated to the empty lots at Cadiz Road and 16-17 Queen’s Park East, Port of Spain, the car park for customers of restaurants Apsara and Thamnak Thai.
The property is owned by the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago (NIBTT).
However, NIBTT recently turned the sod at that location for construction of its new headquarters, leaving the band without a location to practise ahead of this year’s Panorama.
Eventually, NIBTT decided to allow the band to use its other vacant lots at 21-24 Queen’s Park East rent-free for the 2015 Carnival season.
Desperadoes hired a contractor to move equipment that was housed at its Laventille Road headquarters to the new Queen’s Park East home.
“We hired a contractor to get the rack and the pans down from the hill and we were just as surprised as you all to know that there was a fatal shooting . . . . We were in the yard waiting for the racks and thing to come down, because we had just got the yard paved yesterday,” Desperadoes’ assistant manager Anthony Joseph told the Express in a telephone interview yesterday.
Pantin was one of the men hired by the contractors to do the task.
Around 11 a.m. yesterday, while Pantin and the vehicle’s driver were transporting the pan racks along Rudolph Charles Link Road they were ambushed by three gunmen.
Rudolph Charles Link Road links Laventille with Belmont.
The gunmen opened fire and Pantin and the driver were injured in the shooting.
They were both rushed to Port of Spain General Hospital, where Pantin died while undergoing emergency surgery.
The driver is said to be in critical condition.
Joseph offered condolences to Pantin’s family on behalf of Witco Desperadoes.
“As we heard about it, we sent our condolences to the family. He [Pantin] was no direct member of the band. The contractor we hired to bring the pans down hired these gentlemen. We are sorry as it is, that he lost his life,” he said.
Joseph said they were of the view the shooting was a “mix-up”.
Homicide detectives have not yet determined a motive for the killing.
“We are of the opinion that it [was] some mix-up. Apparently these guys believe this person who I heard is from Diego Martin was someone else,” Joseph said.
“There was nothing at the Despers’ panyard, either up the hill or the new one at Queen’s Park East. It was at the Rudolph Charles Link Road, we understand, that the shooting took place and the victim died at the hospital, as far as the information we received, and a driver also got shot; he is at the hospital right now,” he said.
Joseph said transportation of pan equipment to and from the hill usually occurred without incident during Carnival.
“We’re accustomed moving pans. So we don’t think it is linked to Despers. We are almost certain that it is some kind of mistake with these guys and them who just start to shoot up the place.”
Joseph said the band still has 75 per cent of its equipment to be relocated to Queen’s Park East.
Police have offered to provide protection for the band in this venture.
“Only about a quarter of the pan racks are down, we have about three quarters to bring down again. So we have more racks to come down; so the police have come to us and said they will assist us in escorting the transport of the pans and the racks . . . ,” Joseph said.
Last night’s scheduled practice session was cancelled.
Joseph said he hoped spectators would come to the panyard to support Despers.
“As far as we know, we have no connection whatsoever with any sort of gang violence or anything. It is a normal thing that Despers move off of the hill at Carnival time. This is about the sixth year since we have done it,” Joseph said.
“Because of the crime situation we decided it was best to come down from the hill for the safety of the players and supporters likewise.
“To say [Pantin’s death] will hamper people from coming, it is too early to speculate; but I doubt because Desperadoes is a renowned band and it is a known band all over the world; and people would want to hear them; and they will feel safer around Queen’s Park East rather than up the hill,” Joseph said.
The murder toll for the year to date now stands at 17.
Homicide detectives as well as officers of the Belmont and Besson Street police stations are investigating this latest killing.