PORT OF SPAIN –– A family who were preparing to celebrate one of their own’s 96th birthday tomorrow were thrown into mourning when one of their younger ones, 12-year-old Gonzales schoolboy Yakini Charles, was shot and killed on his way home from school.
According to police reports, Charles, a Form 1 Tranquility Government Secondary School student, was heading back to his Pitman Lane, Gonzales home around 8:30 a.m. when he was shot in the back along St Andrew Lane, Gonzales.
Charles ran along Olton Road after being shot but collapsed and was taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital by a truck driver who saw him lying on the roadway. Charles died while being treated.
Relatives said Charles was returning home to change his school shirt, which he claimed was not fitting well as it was too big.
An ongoing war between two gangs in Gonzales is being blamed for the child’s killing. Relatives said the gunmen from one side had pounced on a group of men who were seen liming in the area just before Charles passed
on his way home.
Charles’ great-grandmother Lanthe Layne will celebrate her 96th birthday tomorrow and her family was planning a surprise birthday lime for her, but those plans were dashed yesterday as they prepared for the child’s wake.
When the media visited the child’s home yesterday his paternal grandmother Lucille Layne and great-grandmother spoke highly of the lad, who was the eldest of four children.
Both women said Charles would be missed dearly as he was very helpful. The women claimed Charles was sent home from school to his death by Tranquility Government Secondary staff.
However, the school and the child’s father Saad Charles have denied that.
Saad Charles, in a brief telephone interview, said he went to the school after learning his child was turned away because his grey school pants was too tight. When he arrived the upset father met with the school’s guard, principal Anisette and a male dean who showed him a list of pupils who were sent home because their school uniforms were altered, and Charles was not on that list.
Charles said he was told his son was shot in a drive-by shooting. He said he was told while on his cellphone standing next to some men from the area, a car pulled up and the shooter opened fire on the group. The group scampered for safety and the Form 1 pupil was the only one who was shot.
“I think he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Charles said of his child’s death, adding there was nothing he could say about it other than it was sad.
The child’s grandmother said she would forgive his killer, but called on them to put down their guns, a sentiment echoed by another villager, George “Royalty International” Jackman.
“I think it was an accidental shooting and I forgive them, but I can’t forget. I will like to see them put down their guns. Please, you don’t know how you have people crying. Is when it reach home, then you does know,” Layne said as she wiped away tears, and was comforted by her daughter Jahmeelah.
An upset Jackman added: “I think they should give you life whenever they hold you with an illegal gun because that is what taking lives.
“If they don’t want to hang people, they have to make stiffer penalties because nobody value life any more. Is better we live like dog. I am 50 years old and this youth get gun down . . . is unfair.”
Layne, 95, said: “When I was young I never had to go through this and now that I reach this stage I have to go through this? I want the shooters to put back life in him, that is what I want.”
The matriarchal backbone of the family said she had begged her daughter Lucille to keep Charles at their Gonzales home instead of having him live with his mother in south Trinidad.
Lucille later brought a plaque Charles had received for assisting in cleaning up a clogged toilet at his primary school Escallier Primary last year. The plaque thanked Charles for cleaning the toilet which the family said was clogged by another student.
The willingness to help was also a trait Charles exhibited at home, his family said. His relatives said Charles was eager to attend school yesterday, as he was looking forward to completing a school project.
On Monday night Charles said he needed brown cotton to complete the project, which his aunt bought yesterday along with three additional notebooks. The relatives said his father had told him he saw potential in him after witnessing his zeal towards his schooling.
Charles’ killing took the murder toll to 301, two more for the same period last year. An autopsy was done on the child today at the Forensic Science Centre, St James.