Elders living in the hills of Laventille have called on Prime Minister Keith Rowley to call out the troops in a bid to prevent any more innocent young men from being senselessly killed.
These calls were made subsequent to word spreading throughout Picton Road, Laventille, that more would be killed and before Rowley announced soldiers would be called out to patrol crime hotspots permanently.
One senior citizen, who has been living along Picton Road for the past 50 years, said he was shocked to learn that moments after 16-year-old Deneilson Smith and 15-year-old Mark Richards were gunned down, laughter was heard coming from the masked gunmen and other young men who were around. Both teens attended the Success Laventille Secondary School and were in Form Four and Form Three, respectively.
“Such shame that these good-for-nothing youths could kill someone in cold blood and beat their chest and laugh. They have no respect for human life, much less for God,” the resident said.
He, however, admitted that they were forced to remain quiet as they were also threatened.
“We cannot talk to the youths again. They have a mind of their own and they are heavily influenced by the bad guys around. Family or no family them will gun you down if you look to correct them or even call the police for them,” he said.
“It’s only the army can deal with them without mercy and to bring back a lawless society. The Devil take over,” he said.
Many residents yesterday described Smith and Richards as role model youths.
“A lot of times you would hear a pest being described as an angel when they are killed but God is my witness, these boys were really good boys, who studied their school work and took life and their families seriously,” another resident said, who also asked for her name to be withheld.
It is also the fear of some residents that there will be an upsurge in reprisal killings over Thursday’s murders.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday at her home in Mulrain Trace, Smith’s younger sister, Asante, said that she was in another taxi, two cars behind the one that her brother and Richards were in, and heard the gunshots. Asante also attends the same school.
“I heard the gunshots and the taxi I was in began to slow down. When I look I saw my brother lying on the ground. I jump out and ran to him and touched his face. Markie (Richards) tried to run but he too was shot. My brother just gone!” Asante said as she broke down in tears.
She added that on Thursday morning before leaving for school, she and Smith were making plans for her upcoming 15th birthday on February 10.
“I told him, boy, since you love yuh belly, you will cut the birthday cake with me.” Asante again became inconsolable.
She said that just as they were leaving home for school, Smith walked up to his mother and rubbed her head and told her that he loved her.
She said she saw both her brother and Richards during school hours at school.
“I would usually help out in the school’s cafeteria and Markie (Richards) came and said he want $5 in toffee, then he said no, he want a big peach instead so I looked for the biggest one and sold it to him. Earlier the morning he (Richards) came to my classroom and gave me a bounce and asked me if I was OK. My brother and Markie would always look out for me in school.”
Asante said her brother was a school prefect and a role model to the other students in the school. She added that he was an excellent cricket player and coach during vacation time where he would teach others to play cricket during camp sessions. Smith was the recipient of several trophies, awards and certificates for sports and academics. Richards, she said, loved football and played the sport “excellently.”
While at the Forensic Science Centre, yesterday, Richards’ uncle, Robert Phillip, also described his nephew as a role model young man.
“He was never in no gang thing and never associated himself with no gang people, so wherever those things coming from are all lies. He loved music and loved to sing. He was all for hanging out with the family. Nobody have anything bad to say about Mark.”
Yesterday, police officers frequented the school and its environs where they conducted foot and mobile patrols.
Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, in a press release, gave the assurance that Student Support Services has already been contacted and would visit the Success Laventille Secondary School to provide grief counselling to both the classmates and teachers of Richards and Smith.
A teacher at the school, who wished not to be identified, said she was heartbroken to hear about their demise. “Both boys were loved by us all. They were very nice and eager to learn children. I wish it had more like them out here. They both would look out for their teachers and, of course, they had their favourites so the extra love and attention would go to them.”
An investigating officer yesterday confirmed that they already had two names of the alleged killers and that arrests were imminent.