PORT OF SPAIN – Qhe Baisden, who was shot during a protest in East Port-of-Spain on Monday afternoon, is autistic. And the trauma of the incident is now said to have set his mind back to that of a three-year-old.
Baisden, 39, was on his way home from work when, as he reached the corner of Riley Terrace and Bath Street, he was shot in one of his legs. The bullet exited through the connection point to the leg, severing a main artery. His condition was stabilized, but up to late yesterday he remained warded at the Intensive Care Unit of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
Both police and the residents are blaming each other for the shooting, with neither accepting responsibility. The police have released a video of the incident, but it does not have any audio and does not give a full account of what transpired.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian at his home yesterday, Baisden’s brother, Alím said he was “shocked, distraught and yet angry” over what happened to his brother.
However, he blamed the police.
“My brother was walking up the hill, minding his own business, not taking heed of what’s happening around him. The bullet holes speak for itself. The police were downhill shooting uphill. One of the bullets went through and through my brother’s leg. He didn’t even know he was shot and when he walked further up that’s when he collapsed.”
Baisden is a kitchen assistant at the Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s and is one of the breadwinners of the household, where almost all his siblings are said to be either autistic or suffering from a mental illness.
Alím said his brother was a student at Servol in his earlier years.
“Servol was able to bring him up to a level where he could have been able to blend into society to work and help pay the bills. Now, because of the trauma, my brother has now mentally gone back to that of a three-year-old. How will he be able to pull through this?”
He added: “He always had a problem of trying to form words. He would speak but only to people when it was necessary. He usually doesn’t speak much. I am angry because the police took his mind away. We are now going to act as his rehab now.”
Baisden’s shooting came as residents continued to protest over the police killing of Basilon Street resident Akel Christmas James.
James’ killing sparked outrage among residents of East Dry River, causing many of them to dump garbage and debris onto several major roadways, blocking all traffic flow for hours. Some debris was also set afire by the protesting residents, who called for justice for James.
Later that evening, when residents attempted to reignite debris along Bath Street, Baisden was shot and wounded in an alleged cross fire between police and gang members. However, residents claimed the police were not shot upon and that they were the ones who were shooting at residents. The police meanwhile claim Baisden was shot by one of the residents and was brought to them to be taken to hospital for treatment. The video the TTPS released shows Baisden being carried by the residents to the police, who then put him into a van to be taken to hospital.
Alím, however, knocked the police for doing a “terrible job”.
“They should have known not to hit civilians in a combat situation, regardless of what situation . . . yes, the area has a long history with gangs, but gang or no gang they (referring to gang members) always avoided hitting civilians. They would not shoot the residents and if one of their own gets hit they take care of their own…just saying. But the police officer who shot my brother should be held accountable for what happened.”
He suggested that a peace treaty should be the order of the day now.
“We cannot continue like this . . . this back and forth trouble. They executed someone who didn’t know who he was as a person (referring to James). Instead, they should have arrested him and taken him down or something, talk to them. The police’s actions have caused a lot of anger, rage and disappointment and they should change their approach now. It is time.”
Meawhile, investigators looking into the two police-involved shootings will have a tough time because the officers involved were not wearing body cameras.
The uncertainty about both incidents has lead to the question of whether police officers involved were wearing body cameras at the time.
But last evening, TTP corporate communications manager Ellen Lewis said they were not.
“The use of body worn cameras in the TTPS is in the experimental stage and therefore limited to the officers involved in a randomized controlled trial,” Lewis said in response to a question on the matter last evening.
In July last year, some 60 body cams were assigned to officers for a testing period of six months. But Lewis said “the officers involved in the trial were not among those on duty in East PoS”.
However, Lewis said there are CCTV cameras in the areas were the incidents occurred and footage from these cameras are being used in the investigation.