An off-duty police officer, the driver of Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith, responding to a report of an armed robbery was gunned down by unknown assailants near his home late Saturday night in Rose Hill, St Peter, the first officer gunned down in the line of duty in over 30 years.
Acting Station Sargeant Newton Lewis was alerted to a robbery in progress a few metres from his home, when he was fatally shot by three gunmen, a visibly shaken police spokesman Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss told reporters. Station Sargeant Lewis’ service weapon may also have been taken by the assailants, according to reports.
Inspector Inniss said: “Tonight around 9:05, a shopkeeper who lives in Rose Hill, St Peter alerted the police officer that there were a group of men trying to rob his establishment. He requested the assistance of that police officer.
“The police officer who lived just a few metres away from the establishment was at home and he responded to the report. He got the aid of another person who lived in the general area and went to the establishment. On his way to the establishment, he was confronted by the said assailants. A number of gunshots were heard and that police officer fell to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene.”Commissioner Griffith joined scores of St Peter residents gathered at the scene in shock as family members wailed in grief and traumatized police officers attempted to come to grips with their loss.
The police public relations officer said: “We are out here … supporting his wife, his father, his children, they are all together, huddled together and very, very traumatized, even police officers at the scene you can see how they feel.
“We are bringing counsellors for the family and we are bringing counsellors for our workmates as well.”
Remembering his fallen colleague he added: “[Lewis was] an acting station sergeant, very young and exuberant officer, [a] very good officer and it is sad that we would lose one of our own or anyone in these circumstances.
“He died doing what he loves to do as a police officer sadly.”
Residents in the area expressed shock and concern at the incident saying it was a first for the quiet community.
“We are very concerned. Nothing like this ever happened out here. We never had that sort of activity,” one woman said.
Another who had mere moments earlier visited the shop said she fears for children who normally visit the shop.
She recalled hearing a barrage of gunfire.
“There were so much I can’t even count, I know there were more than 10,” she told reporters. “I heard crying and screaming and then when I came out everything was chaos.”
A man at the scene described Station Sargeant Lewis as friendly and said he would be missed. He urged authorities to seriously tackle crime.
“The Prime Minister has to step down on it and hang these youngsters,” he declared. “If they don’t do something about it, it will continue.”
One distraught woman who described the fallen officer as a friend expressed her disbelief at the incident.
“He was my friend, it is very sad to see my friend is gone,” she said. “I spoke to him on Tuesday. I am very distraught to see my friend lying down in the road now and I can’t even say hi. I am very, very distraught.”
Police are appealing to anyone with information or who may have witnessed the attack, to contact police emergency at 211, the Holetown Police Station at 419-1730, the Criminal Investigation Department, or any police station.
Two officers, the last to fall in the line of duty, were slain in the last decade of the 20th Century.
Station Sargeant Lewis is the first police officer to be slain in the line of duty this century. In 1990, Police Constable 898 Marlon Marville was shot dead by Carlisle Payne, then 17 years old. Payne was convicted of murder and was jailed for nearly 25 years. He was released in 2013, expressed remorse for his actions, and apologised to the victim’s family and society.
In 1993, Sargeant Peter Springer, who was off-duty at the time, was stabbed in the chest on Bridge Street as he confronted an apparently deranged man.