‘Rooftop eyewitness’ worked on the ground

Commissioner of Police (ag) David Ramnarine

— police commissioner says in preliminary report on seawall shooting deaths
— other witnesses fearful to come forward, says Hughes

POLICE are in possession of three statements that revealed that Devon Lyte, who claimed he was on the roof of a building when he saw police shot dead three men on March 15, was actually a labourer who worked on the ground.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, acting Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine said, Lyte was “never” on any roof at the time of the shooting as he claimed.
Police shot and killed Dextroy Cordis, 46, called “Dutty” of Grove, East Bank Demerara; Kwame Assanah, 37, of Buxton, East Coast Demerara (ECD); and Errol Adams, 57, also known as “Dynamite,” of Buxton, ECD.

The police in a statement had said the men had trailed a customer from a commercial bank and were about to commit a crime when they were confronted.
However, on Monday, Lyte surfaced and made statements contrary to the police’s statement.

Accompanied by lawyer Nigel Hughes, Lyte told a news conference that he was a labourer working on the roof of the Guyana Softball Association building on March 15, when he witnessed the police execute the three men on the seawall.

“Our investigators are in possession of several statements, three of which are very instructive to the extent that Mr. Devon Lyte was never ever, I repeat, never ever, on the building he claimed he was on at the press conference on Monday,” Ramnarine said.

Noting that one of the statements is from the contractor who hired Lyte, the top cop said the two other statements are from the sub-contractor and a security supervisor.
He said that on Wednesday, Attorney Nigel Hughes visited the location and inquired where specifically his client was on March 15 when the shooting occurred.

“On being told that his client is a labourer, not a skilled worker, who worked on the ground floor with a mixer, he ( Hughes) left,” the acting top cop said.
Ramnarine also said that information revealed that Lyte last worked at the scene on Sunday last he has not returned to work since.

“The workers there are disappointed when they learnt and saw Devon Lyte on television talking the story. This investigation is an investigation in progress, you should also note that Lyte at his press conference had a cap pulled very low and was not afraid to publicise himself, whether half or full, and was also in [the]company of a relative of one of the deceased that should be very informative for right thinking people,” Ramnarine said.

The acting commissioner of police is calling on all eyewitnesses to come forward since “the Force is more opened now and there is nothing to be afraid of”.
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that is conducting this investigation is led by an exceedingly competent officer. I would like (the public) to know that it is a requirement in law that all unnatural deaths including fatal shootings be investigated and sent for legal advice,” Ramnarine told reporters.

Attorney Nigel Hughes

Adding that the investigation is moving at a rapid pace with much diligence, Ramnarine said unfortunately Lyte who claimed to be an eyewitness to the shooting has not shown up yet at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to give a statement.
In fact, Ramnarine said the attorney (Hughes) took his client to the CID headquarters and in discussion with the crime chief, it was arranged for him to return with his client the following day, which was Tuesday.

“That did not happen. In fact a senior detective having called the learned attorney on another matter involving someone else who had gone to CID headquarters, was then told by the attorney-at-law that they would not be there today (Tuesday) at CID because his client, Devon Lyte, had some family issues to sort out,” Ramnarine said.
On Thursday, the top cop said Hughes related to the crime chief that protection would be needed for his client, Lyte.

“But Devon Lyte did not have witness protection when he went on television on Monday, neither did he need witness protection when he came with his attorney at CID headquarters, how funny indeed.”

He noted that police investigators will reveal all their findings in the final report.
“I am not going to make any inference or reference made by the Head of State or by anyone in the government for that matter, I am speaking in my professional capacity as the commissioner of police, acting on this matter,” Ramnarine said.
Government has ordered an investigation into the circumstances which resulted in the death of the three alleged bandits at the Georgetown seawall on March 15, President David Granger disclosed on Wednesday.

Hughes in a statement reacting to Ramnarine, said it is unfortunate that Ramnarine who had previously supported the officers involved in the incident, would choose to publicly challenge a citizen who was brave enough to come forward and provide a statement and who he has not had the benefit of interviewing.

“Needless to say, the absence of confidence which several eyewitness expressed to me and other independent investigators about the ability of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to protect their safety when their own officers are the subject of the allegation of murder, has been confirmed by the statements of the commissioner.

“I confirm that on Monday afternoon Mr. Lyte met with Mr. Paul Williams, Crime Chief in the Office of the Crime Chief, Eve Leary. The sole purpose of attending the crime chief’s office was for Mr. Lyte to give a statement. The senior officer who Mr. Williams contacted was not available at the time and we agreed that we would return on Tuesday at lunchtime. In the intervening period, Mr. Lyte contacted me and expressed the collective fear of his entire family about his safety and protection,” Hughes said.

He noted that in an effort to persuade Lyte that his fears were exaggerated, he (Hughes) went to his home and spoke with his (Lyte’s) grandmother and sister, both of whom were adamant that he (Lyte) would not be attending any police station as they were afraid for his safety and that of their family

Hughes said he went to the Softball Association of Guyana ground on Carifesta Avenue on Wednesday morning and spoke with a person who described himself as a supervisor. The individual confirmed the presence of Lyte at the location on March 15, 2018 but said that he (Lyte) was not on the roof at the time of the shooting.

Hughes added that he subsequently learnt from another source that the contractor was interviewed by the police prior to his arrival and was in fear of losing his contract with the government to repair the building.

“Earlier this morning we delivered a letter to the Commissioner of Police expressing the exact fear of Mr. Lyte. Today, I have personally interviewed two additional eyewitnesses who were at much closer proximity to the shooting and whose line of sight was

considerably more proximate than that of Mr. Lyte. I also spoke to both the Minister of Public Security and the Crime Chief about the fears of the witnesses about their safety. This was prior to the commissioner’s statements later this afternoon,” he said.

Hughes noted that in light of the considerable fear and apprehension felt by eyewitnesses who have provided him with statements of the events of the March 15, the family of Cordis is of the opinion that it is beyond the capacity of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the death of Dextroy Cordis.

“These statements have disclosed a frightening chronology of events which have cast not only grave doubts on the version of events provided by the commissioner of police, but include a recount of one of the police officers turning his guns on a group of persons who were playing football at the Guyana National Service (GNS) ground when they were

observed looking on at the events. Both of these witnesses have expressed little confidence in the ability of the GPF to protect them and in the light of the public statements and treatment of Mr. Lyte by the commissioner of police who commented without the benefit of

an interview with him, the fears of the two witnesses along with that of Mr. Lyte are now fully justified. I personally telephoned both the minister of public security and the crime chief today to express these fears,” he said.

The family of Cordis, Hughes said, is of the firm belief that the GPF cannot be entrusted to conduct a fair investigation into the shooting deaths of the young men and are calling for a full independent investigation.