A man from Charlotteville, Tobago, who was allegedly shot by a police officer for allegedly breaching ongoing Stay-at-Home regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has threatened to sue the State.
Attorneys representing Zauvghan Benjamin, of Belle Aire Road, Charlotteville, made the threat in a pre-action protocol letter sent to National Security Minister Stuart Young on Thursday.
In the letter, attorney Janelle Ramsaroop claimed that on April 6, Benjamin was standing in his relative’s yard at J.D Elder Drive in Charlotteville when he noticed a police vehicle driving on the road.
Ramsaroop admitted that Benjamin ran upon seeing the officers but claimed that he did so because he believed he may be in breach of the regulations advising citizens to stay in their homes.
Ramsaroop claimed that when Benjamin was eventually intercepted, he surrendered to police by putting his hands in the air.
She stated that without warning he was immediately shot in his both knees at point-blank range by an officer, who he knew previously as “Officer Kerr”.
Benjamin was allegedly dragged along the road, thrown into the vehicle, and taken to the Scarborough General Hospital, where he remained being treated up to late yesterday.
Ramsaroop stated that he continues to suffer immense and unbearable pain from his wounds and a bullet is still lodged in one of his knees.
“Our client fears that by being at the hospital, for something entirely the fault and deliberate, wilful abuse of power and authority by the TTPS, he now runs the risk of contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus as he continues to await surgery and is not sure when he will receive surgical attention and when the bullet will be removed from his knee or if he will ever be able to use his legs again or instead will become a permanent cripple and handicapped member of society,” Ramsaroop said.
She noted that her client has a clean criminal record as she suggested that the TTPS may seek to discredit him by falsely claiming that he was in possession of a firearm based on his legal threat.
In the letter, Ramsaroop questioned whether the TTPS has a “shoot on sight” policy while the regulations stay in effect at least until April 30.
Ramsaroop called on the officer to face disciplinary charges and also referred the letter to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard, SC, to consider criminal charges.
Ramsaroop gave Young 14 days in which to reply to the letter and offer a suitable settlement before she files a lawsuit seeking compensation over what transpired.
“The incident has caused our client to be frustrated and fearful, he has essentially been traumatised and possibly even handicapped, and as such, he ought to be duly compensated for his physical and mental and emotional suffering and for his loss of amenities and pain and suffering and loss of future earnings and career opportunities,” Ramsaroop said.
Benjamin is also being represented by attorney Martin George.