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Tension runs high in Exeter gun case

Tension runs high in Exeter gun case


The tension between defence lawyers and the prosecution could be cut with a knife on Tuesday, as the trial involving politician Ben Exeter and New Democratic Party (NDP) activist Shabazaah GunMunro George began at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court.

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Colin John, who is prosecuting the case, and defence lawyers Kay Bacchus-Browne and Israel Bruce clashed during the case, in which Bacchus-Browne accused police corporal 632 Cuthbert Morris of exercising “political bias”.

Exeter was charged that on December 29, 2015, he assaulted Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty. He was also charged that he resisted the arrest of Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty.{{more}}

He was further charged that he assaulted constable Granville De Freitas of Chester Cottage, causing actual bodily harm.

George was also charged that day for obstructing Corporal 632 Morris, acting in due execution of his duty and that he, without lawful excuse, had in his possession an offensive weapon, to wit a zapper.

When, Morris took the stand on Tuesday, he recalled being on duty outside of the House of Assembly, when he saw Corporal 508 Mayers speaking to Exeter in what he described as a calm manner, and he saw Exeter raise his shirt, revealing the black handle of what appeared to be a firearm.

Morris said he ran and pulled the firearm and shouted to Mayers, “Boy the man have a gun”.

He told the court that he became fearful and was unsure if Exeter had a licence for the gun. When asked if he had a licence for the firearm, Exeter did not respond.

Morris said he then told Exeter he was arresting him on suspicion of having an unlicensed firearm and handed the firearm to Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Hazelwood, who arrived at the same time.

Following this, Morris said he was instructed to take Exeter to the Central Police Station, but was interrupted by Shabazaah George, who came within a foot of them, armed with a cellular phone, taking pictures and shouting, “you can’t lock up the man”.

According to Morris, this caused the officers to divert to their left, because he became fearful that George was going to take Exeter away from him and Police Constable DeFreitas.

However, during cross-examination, Morris said he did not see George with a zapper when he intercepted him.

He further stated that Exeter pushed De Freitas into a parked vehicle and he heard De Freitas say “Man you want to break my hand”.

Upon their arrival at the Criminal Investigations Unit (CID), Morris said he reported the matter to Corporal May and while there he observed a “reddish” mark on De Freitas elbow.

During the cross examination, led by Bacchus-Browne, Morris said he only knew Exeter from the news and when asked if he knew Exeter to be a criminal, Morris replied, “well, he had a firearm”.

Morris also said Exeter was aggressive, based on his gestures, but later said not all gestures could be termed aggressive.

He, however, revealed that the gun was in its holster that was on the inside of Exeter’s pants waist, covered by his shirt.

Bacchus-Browne described Morris’ actions to be “idiotic and dangerous,” stating that there was a large crowd of people present. The officer, however, replied, “It was not a dangerous situation”.

Bacchus accused Morris of striking Exeter in the face, which he strongly denied.

The seasoned lawyer said Morris was malicious and determined to bring Exeter into custody and told Morris he would not have done the same to Senator Julian Francis.

Morris said because of the situation he did what he felt was best and if it was another politician, he would have done the same.

The police officer of 21 years said he has been accused of hitting persons before, but when he held on to Exeter to arrest him, Exeter grabbed him.

“I held on to Mr Exeter and he collar me,” he said, adding that other police officers then assisted him.

When questioned by defence attorney Bruce, Morris said he is not acquainted with the Firearms Act, but he had, in the past, made arrests on suspicion of possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Tuesday’s matter, which was presided over by Magistrate Bertie Pompey, was witnessed by several high-ranking members of the NDP, including party President Arnhim Eustace, Member of Parliament for West Kingstown Daniel Cummings, Senator Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell and Maia Eustace, daughter of the president of the NDP.

Six more witnesses are expected to testify today at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court as the matter continues. (AS)