PORT OF SPAIN –– In a time when some citizens are cowering in fear of criminals, Springvale residents dished out a special kind of vigilante justice on Wednesday when they pummeled one of two bandits who robbed a Claxton Bay bar, leaving him in critical condition at hospital.
The suspect, who remained a John Doe at the San Fernando General Hospital last night, had not regained consciousness since being knocked out by villagers on Tuesday outside PJ’s Recreation Club along Mount Pleasant Road.
There were over a dozen patrons liming at the community watering hole around 2:40 p.m. when two bandits, dressed in short-sleeved coveralls, boldly walked into the bar.
Whipping out a gun, one of the men announced a robbery. Unprovoked, he immediately kicked Chinese national Lui Luo, the operator of gaming machines inside the club, in the back of his head.
The impact caused Luo to fall against a roulette table, hitting his forehead. He was then robbed of almost $2,000 in sales. The gunman then walked into the casino room and robbed patrons of cash and jewelry.
Club owner, Phoolmatie John, said she was outside when she saw the two men but thought they went to buy drinks. It was when she heard the sound of the gunman unlocking the safety feature on the gun that she panicked and grabbed her three-year-old grandson.
“I got real frightened and my heart not so good. I picked up my lil grandson and walked inside [my house] while the bandits went inside and rob the people of their money and gold.
“The tall one who got beat up came and opened the gate to the bar and started to kick down the door,” she recalled.
“Right in the back is my house and my son was inside sleeping. When he heard the knocking, he jumped up and said ‘What is going on ma?’ As the bandit kicked down the door, my son grabbed him by the neck and both of them started to scuffle.”
While her son, Niben Beepat, 28, fought with that bandit, the gunman bolted, leaving his partner to fend for himself.
By this time, however, the angry bar patrons, responding to John’s cries for help, ran into the house and dragged the unarmed bandit outside. The then unleashed a barrage of kicks and cuffs on him.
Other patrons meanwhile chased the gunman but he jumped into a white Nissan Almera, registration PBU 6600, with another man and the car sped off.
Within a minute, however, the car spun around and came back at them. As the patrons threw stones at the car the gunman fired two shots at them but missed.
When Couva police arrived they found the battered suspect bleeding from a wound to his face.
He was taken to hospital by ambulance and investigators said yesterday he was warded in an unsatisfactory condition under police guard. Police recovered bullet casings which were taken into evidence, along with CCTV footage from the club.
As she commended the villagers for their bravery, John said the police treated her son and the patrons like they were criminals.
She said they spent long hours under interrogation at the Couva Police Station and it was only when a senior officer gave instructions to release them were they were allowed to go home.
“I can’t function, I can’t eat, I can’t cook. I said this could never be right. All these hours we were at the station after people came and robbed us. Big daylight they [bandits] coming to rob people. I don’t know what is going on with this place,” John said.
“I don’t really want to work again because I really can’t take seeing a gun in my face a next time. Those boys were saying kill him [the bandit] but I said not to kill anybody in my place. It was a good move by the young fellas in the bar and if there were the bigger guys, he [bandit] would have been dead.”
Her business, which she inherited from her deceased mother, Ramrajie John, several years ago has been opened for 40 years.
She said police, current and retired, frequented the club, which is popular among the villagers.
She said the bandits knew when to strike and believed they have been targeting the Chinese who run the casino. She said since the Chinese set up last year they had been robbed several times while leaving the club. Two months ago, the casino in the club was also robbed.
While she said no one at the bar knew the suspects, there were suspicions they could be from Railway Road, Couva.