Derek Achong

A police officer, residing in Greenvale Park, La Horquetta, who was given a national award for his heroics in rescuing neighbours during devastating floods in the community two years ago, has threatened to sue the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for defamation.

In a pre-action protocol letter issued yesterday to HDC chairman Noel Garcia, attorneys representing Police Constable Thaddeus Caraballo claimed the State-owned housing agency tarnished his reputation when it claimed that he fabricated reports of flash flooding in the community, last Sunday.

According to the letter, obtained by Guardian Media, Carballo, who was among a group of residents, who received the Hummingbird Medal (Bronze) at last year’s National Awards ceremony for their bravery and gallantry during the last major flood, was on duty at the La Horquetta Police Station during heavy rainfall last weekend.

Caraballo’s lawyers claimed that while driving towards the community he noticed rising flood water and saw residents attempting to use the HDC’s evacuation route, which was developed in the aftermath of the major flood.

The route was allegedly impassable at the time.

“The evacuation route plan developed by the HDC appeared to be nothing more than a political publicity stunt to quell the anger, hurt, and disappointment in the community in the aftermath of the devastating floods in 2018. It was a complete failure and an unmitigated disaster,” Caraballo’s lawyer Robert Abdool-Mitchell said.

Caraballo allegedly picked up a family with young children who were marooned and simultaneously posted a live video on his Facebook page to warn neighbours against using the route.

Shortly after Caraballo reportedly received abusive messages on his social media page accusing him of fabricating his live report. Caraballo then noticed a release to residents from the HDC describing his unnamed report as fake.

Caraballo then posted a second video, in which he denied any wrongdoing and expressed disappointment in the HDC’s claims.

Caraballo’s attorneys claimed that the following day he received a call from a senior member of the campaign team for People’s National Movement (PNM) candidate for La Horquetta/Talparo Foster Cummings who warned him that he would face consequences if he continued to paint the HDC and by extension the Government in a negative light.

“Our client believes that this phone call was highly inappropriate and perhaps even unlawful as it amounted to a politician ordering a member of the TTPS to ignore the truth and to lie in order to protect HDC and the Government,” Abdool-Mitchell said as he noted that the letter was sent to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith for his consideration.

Later that day, Caraballo received a call from his supervisor indicating that he was transferred to the Cumuto Police Station.

“Our client, notwithstanding his bravery and gallantry (already the winner of a national award for such conduct), has been treated like a common thug, having been reassigned as soon as he stood up to HDC and posted a video standing by the truth,” he said.

Through the letter, Caraballo is seeking a public apology from the HDC and compensation for damage to his reputation.

The HDC was given 14 days in which to respond.

Caraballo is also being represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC.