Van driver claims RRU officers beat him for expired licence
What started last Tuesday as a normal work day for van driver Robert âNegrilâ DaSilva ended with him being arrested by police and hospitalized with serious injuries to his head, back and toes.
Up to press time yesterday, DaSilva was a patient at the Male Surgical Ward of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), suffering from injuries, including a broken nose, a cut that runs from his left eye along the side of his nose (took four stitches), a cut in his right ear (took two stitches), a head injury, a back injury and damage to his toes.
On Wednesday, from a bed at the Accident and Emergency Department, DaSilva told SEARCHLIGHT that at around 10 on Tuesday morning, he was driving his minivan filled with passengers in the Argyle area on his way to Kingstown from Georgetown.
He said the van was pulled over by officers from the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), also known as the Black Squad, who were conducting what appeared to be a stop and search exercise. DaSilva said he pulled over, the minivan was emptied and the passengers searched and told that they could get back intp the van.
He said when he was about to leave, a police officer told him that he was not wearing a seat belt, so he buckled up, after which he was asked for his driverâs licence.
He said he handed his licence to the officer who then told him that it had expired and he should step out of the vehicle because he was under arrest. DaSilva said when he stepped out of the vehicle, the police officer asked him for the van key, but he told the officer that he would get the conductor to give the key to someone, so that the van could be taken home.
He said the officer demanded the key and after he insisted that the key should be given to the conductor, the officer forcibly took the key from him.
DaSilva says he was then taken to the RRU base at Stubbs and there, he alleges that two of the officers who had removed him from Argyle beat him about his body with a piece of board and dragged him.
He said that the blows rendered him unconscious and when he regained consciousness, he realized that he was in a police vehicle, sirens blaring, with the vehicle going the wrong way through traffic.
DaSilva was taken to the MCMH, where he was treated by medical staff and admitted because of the seriousness of his injuries. He was also placed under police guard and told that on his release, he would be charged with a number of offences.
DaSilva told SEARCHLIGHT that he was beaten for no reason when he was taken to the police base and he has no idea why he was beaten about his body or why he would be charged for any offence, other than driving with an expired licence.
DaSilvaâs girlfriend, Patricia Jackson and his mother Euchrist Jacobs said they are upset about the way DaSilva was treated, as persons who witnessed the incident said the van driver did not resist, except for being reluctant to hand over the key to his vehicle.
Jackson said her boyfriendâs minivan H1662 was off the road for two months and DaSilva was eager to drive his van to make up for the loss of income.
âThe Black Squad stopped the man, which is their job to do, but why beat him up? Why take him to the police station and beat him up?â questioned Jackson who noted that DaSilva left the scene without physical injuries and when she saw him at the MCMH, blood was rushing from his nose.
She said it is also alarming that her boyfriend is under 24/7 police guard at the hospital.
âI have no idea what they would want to charge him for, because even though you driving with an expired licence, thatâs a traffic charge. I donât see why it led to this sort of abuse. Police is here to protect and if they canât protect us, who can we trust? They cannot go around beating people like that. You hit him in Argyle; if that make you happy, then so be it; so why go in the base and hit him?â asked the New Grounds resident.
DaSilvaâs mother said she too is upset about what transpired.
âI want justice for my son. He is good to me,â Jacobs declared.
On Thursday, Sergeant Rochelle Smith of the Police Public Relations Department said that the incident was reported by DaSilvaâs girlfriend and the police are looking into it.
A police officer attached to the Traffic Department of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force said persons should not be arrested for driving with an expired licence, as this is not an offence that one can be detained for. He said the police would normally encourage the offender to pay the licence fee or charge the person, who would then be summoned to Traffic Court.
It was, however, noted that the police may confiscate a vehicle for further inspection.(LC)