The brutal killing of 24-year-old tattoo artist Shaquille Toppin has not only left his Danesbury, Retreat Road, Black Rock, St Michael family reeling in pain, but also with many unanswered questions.
This afternoon, his sister Zonel Forde told Barbados TODAY that she was struggling to understand why somebody would riddle her younger brother’s body with 16 bullets, just a stone’s throw away from his home.
Sitting on the patio of the family home, staring at Toppin’s pink and white tattoo shop, situated on the same property, Forde said though her tears had subsided for a while, she was nursing an aching heart.
She was seriously concerned about their mother, Pollenia Gibson-Toppin who has not been the same since 9:55 Tuesday night when her last born child was gunned down.
“Mummy is in a mess. Mummy is not taking it well at all. They were very close. He would talk to her about anything,” Forde said.
“Mummy I coming back, lock the door,” were the last words Gibson-Toppin heard her son say.
The next thing Forde and her mother heard were gunshots.
“When we heard the gunshots I take my mother and I push her down to the ground. We went on all fours. The bullets sounded like fireworks.
“I said to myself ‘what going on?’ And then it clicked with me, and I say ‘mummy that is Shaquille’. And she said, ‘no don’t tell me that’. I say, ‘mummy that is Shaquille, Shaquille now left the house, call he’. So we were calling him, and he didn’t answer the phone,” she recalled.
Toppin did not answer, but his mother and sister could hear the neighbours screaming and shouting.
“My mother drop down to the ground, and quick so my neighbour was in the house saying call the police. We couldn’t get the police called because we couldn’t function.
“By then out there was full of people screaming, and quarreling and hollering, and trying to figure out what to do. It was chaos,” she said.
Forde recalled that her mother’s weak legs would not allow her to move from the house to the scene.
But she said that when she got the strength to go and see her sibling, she believed she stopped breathing for a while, forcing residents to call an ambulance for her.
Meanwhile, a private vehicle rushed Toppin to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, after 30 minutes of resucitation by medical personel failed.
Forde said she admired her brother’s passion for success. She said the young man who started his career as a tattoo artist five years ago in his mother’s gallery before saving money to build his own private space, was always thinking about ways to improve his business or life.
Just before his untimely death, Toppin, a former St Leonard’s Secondary student, had bought a car and was looking at the possibility of starting a farm. His parlour was registered, he recently got life insurance, his health certificate was up-to-date, and he was awaiting word on whether he would be receiving an United States visa for which he had just applied.
“He was all about being progressive. He was really clean, and kept his workspace clean, like when you going to get an operation. He had his close friends and everybody respected him. He would bring young fellas here for my mother to talk to them when they are giving trouble.
“He was no troublemaker. My brother would run from trouble. If he feel a wrong vibe, he gone, he wouldn’t stick around. But he was running and it find he,” she said.
The sister admitted that she was feeling unapologetically angry about the circumstances surrounding her brother’s death. The 40-year-old said her family knows that they cannot bring the deceased back to life, but they are determined to get justice for him.
“Give us the peace to know that whoever do it is caught, and that justice is served. And we don’t want them to get no ten years nothing. They must never see light again. That is how I feel about it. If they had an electric chair, they would have to get that. You got to have some kind of mind to murder somebody like that; it can’t be a normal mind.
“You got to have a wicked mentality that you would kill a child, you would kill anything. The doctor told us that he got 16 shots,” Forde lamented.
“You would understand if he was a bad boy giving trouble every since and you was prepared for it, because you know he bad. So you waiting everyday to hear something will happen. Not somebody who don’t trouble anybody.
“We have so many questions. Why Shaquille? Of all the people, why Shaquille had to be the first person to be killed for the year?” she continued.
Toppin’s father, Tony Toppin, was too distraught to speak about the death of his only child when Barbados TODAY contacted him. He said he was leaving the matter in the hands of the police.