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Now Trio Accuse Police Of Torture

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Royal Bahamas Police Force is being sued for allegedly torturing three innocent people in a bid to secure confessions from them.

Two men and a woman in Eleuthera, who were questioned at the Governor’s Harbour Police Station in January, 2018, say they were bound, beaten and fish-bagged before being released without charge. One claimed police poured hot sauce into his eyes.

The trio made formal complaints at the Complaints and Corruption branch of the Force but, after hearing nothing for more than a year, they are pursuing their case in court.

The Tribune is reporting their story for the first time after an in-depth investigation.

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Dale Gibson Jr

On January 18, 2018, armed men robbed the C and AA Service Station at Palmetto Point, Eleuthera, shooting Joel Stubbs, an employee of the station, before escaping with a large sum of cash. The Eleutheran newspaper reported that according to police, three men were taken into custody in connection with the incident, with a team of Central Detective Unit officers from New Providence assisting on the island. On January 26, 2018 the newspaper provided an update: according to police, the men were released from custody without being charged along with two other people who had been arrested, a woman and a man. Among them were Chavette Strachan, 29, Dale Gibson Jr, 29, and Kenton Fines, 27, who have since taken legal action against the RBPF.

On February 8, 2018, police arrested and charged different people with attempted murder and armed robbery: Lamar Wilchombe, 18, from Eleuthera and a 17-year- old boy from Rock Sound. They were accused of stealing $1,800 and four cartons of Backwood cigars from the gas station and of stealing Mr Stubbs’ I-Phone 8, valued at $954. The men were allegedly part of a ring responsible for a spree of robberies between July 2017 and January 2018.

“Torture”

A neighbour of the three told The Tribune she saw when police arrested the two men and took them from their homes around 3am on January 19, 2018. Speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation, she recalled her encounter with Ms Strachan when the trio were released from custody on January 23, 2018.

“When (Chavette) got out she came over to show me the marks on her skin,” she said. “She lifted up her shirt to show bruise marks. I said ‘Chavette, you are a lady, those officers are male, they weren’t even supposed to be touching you.’ She told me how they poured hot sauce in Kenton’s eye and it got to the point where his eye started to get pussy. She was really hurt about all of it. She was crying.”

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Chavette Strachan

According to Ms Strachan, she was arrested about 12 hours after the two men and was initially placed in a cell adjacent to one of the cells holding Mr Fines.

She said officers removed her from the cell, put her in a room and questioned her.

“One officer said we’ll play hang man,” she said. “He said depending on how I answer the question I’ll be hanging myself. At that point I was completely calm, answering intelligently. That seemed to (unnerve) them because they said why I so calm? Next thing I know, they yucked me up, put handcuffs on me and escorted me to a backroom. Two or three officers were standing by the doors. I stood in the middle of the floor and an officer told me lay down, pointing to the ground. I went to my knees and the next thing I knew he kicked me on the ground and started asking me what I did. I felt I was in a mob movie.”

Ms Strachan said the officer had a fish-kit bag.

“He got on my back and put the bag over my heard,” she said. “He would hold it until I couldn’t breathe. This man was playing with my life in his hand. At one point when he took the bag off, I was like ‘sir, if this is the day you choose to kill me, at least let me talk to my mummy.’ He continued doing it. He would stop, take the bag off and question me.”

Ms Strachan said the officer asked her the location of a gun used during the armed robbery.

“They would put me back in the cell,” she said. “They would come for the guys one by one, doing it more with them than with me. I could hear those guys screaming. I could feel their pain from my cell.”

When the trio were in custody, their families reached out to lawyers for help. At least two lawyers, Barry Sawyer and Lennox Colbey, confirmed to The Tribune a connection to the incident.

Mr Colbey said he was retained to help a fourth man who was with the trio, but who ultimately did not pursue legal action against the RBPF.

“I saw and was retained to represent one but I realized if I represented him properly all the others should be ready to come out because they had nothing to do with the incident,” Mr Colbey said on Friday. “It was impossible for that crew to have anything to do with the robbery.

“(My client),” he added, “said it was an experience he went through in there that he would never want to experience. He made allegations of being brutalized and there was evidence that he was because he is a yellow fella. But he was just happy to get out and didn’t pursue it any further.”

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Kenton Fines said he had hot sauce poured in his eyes.

Speaking of his experience, Mr Fines said he was traumatized.

“They poured hot sauce in my eyes and I am still having problems with my eye, like blurred vision, sometimes burning,” he said. “At a certain time of the day I can’t be outside without sunglasses, I don’t leave home without shades.”

According to a Writ of Summons filed by Mr Fines’ lawyer, Allan Emmanuel, $80,000 is being sought from the government for the man’s injuries.

The summons said: “…On 25th of January, 2018, the plaintiff attended Dr KJ Rodgers Clinic at Harbour Bay Shopping Centre, Nassau, the Bahamas for the injuries he received from police.”

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Kenton Fines shows injuries he said he received from police.

Mr Fines said: “They poured enough hot sauce that when I closed my eyes I could feel the liquid on my eye lashes. One of the officers said eventually I had to open my eyes so they poured some of the sauce in the bag and then they put the bag over my head. Automatically when I gasped for breath I opened my eyes. They suspected us as suspects in the armed robbery and they wanted answers like who had the weapon. When they put me in the office, they let me sit straight on the floor. There was a point I was flat, my body unresponsive. I tried to tell myself move and I couldn’t move. At some point it got the point where I had to fight back, thinking they either gon’ kill me or they gon’ let me go. As a result I ended up kicking a hole in the door and breaking the desk in the office. They dragged me from there, put me in the bathroom and they started waterboarding me. They took a pants, wrapped it around my head, stuck my head under the shower which you know basically simulates drowning.”

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Kenton Fines shows injuries he said he received from police.

Mr Fines filed a complaint with the RBPF on February 3, 2018, he said. Ms Strachan said she and Mr Gibson told officers from the corruption and complaints branch what happened on February 14, 2018. Months later, they were brought to Nassau and were shown photos and were asked to identify the people responsible. “I can’t get the man’s face out my head,” Ms Strachan said. Mr Emmanuel, the lawyer of Mr Fines, said he sent two letters to Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson on June 18, 2018 and December 11, 2018 concerning the incident, but has not received a response.

For his part, Mr Gibson said he was held at the Rock Sound station for two days before he was taken to Governor’s Harbour police station.

“They fish-bagged me until I blacked out three times,” he said. “When they yucked the bag off, I was kicking, trying to get out. I had to go to the clinic to get X-ray check of my head.”

Mr Gibson said the officers who “abused” them wore no uniform and came from Nassau.

“All the officers in the station heard us hollering and didn’t do anything,” he said. “They knew what was happening.”

Commissioner Anthony Ferguson declined to comment when contacted yesterday because he said the matter is before the courts.

Nevertheless, on Saturday, Ms Strachan said she received a summons dated February 18, 2019 to appear before the Police Disciplinary Tribunal in Eleuthera to give evidence against an officer involved in the alleged incident.

“Ongoing Problem”

The torture claims came as no surprise to defense lawyers interviewed by this newspaper, all of whom said top law enforcement and political figures have historically made little effort to address what is a grave human rights problem.

The story comes days after Shavar Bain, Sr, a man whose child was kidnapped, alleged that he was beaten while in custody to get him to confess to a role in kidnapping his own son.

Claims of brutality in police custody, including reports of plastic bags and waterboarding, are not rare. Often, the people making the claims are charged before the courts. At least seven defence lawyers, most speaking anonymously to The Tribune in the past week, said torture for confessions is an historical problem.

Mr Emmanuel, the lawyer for Mr Fines, said: “Top officials are aware of what’s going on. They don’t take part in it, but they are aware of it.”

Noting some people lie about being beaten in custody, Mr Colbey, a lawyer for the man who did not pursue legal action, said: “My concern, and I’m depressed about it, is fellas are appearing before court with allegations against police and for many years they’ve been talking about this plastic bag and this body bag in CDU. Have you seen the courts do anything? They just dismiss what these fellas are saying and it can’t be that all of them are lying. It calls for some kind of investigation because in this day and time, there is no need to beat a man for a confession.”

Attorney Fred Smith said: “Beating and torturing confessions out of suspects has been a terrible affliction which the Bahamas has suffered for decades. It has sometimes, unfortunately, been the preferred and easiest way of extracting a confession and I know that for many, many of the cases I used to do when I was in the criminal law practice, accusations of police beating were the norm rather than the exception. I urge the commissioner to up the quality of forensic investigations rather than rely on confessions. I urge the judiciary, particularly in the magistrate courts, to refuse to admit confessions which have any taint of oppression. I also urge the government to establish a statutory, independent police, immigration and defense force complaint commission which would have representatives from police, civil society, the Bench and Bar.”

Comments

Giordano 1 year, 11 months ago

This is abominable and unacceptable and has to be strongly exposed. "The Police is my friend"?. Where are we going with this mess? Evidence after evidence for years and decades and we're still talking a bout it. This needs to stop. And the Justice system also got to be accountable.

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CatIslandBoy 1 year, 11 months ago

I see that nothing has changed in the past 40 years since I worked with the police force. In my day CID was filled with a bunch of minimally educated thugs who only knew how to beat suspects for their confession. Many suspects confessed just to end the torture, some of them eventually going to Fox Hill despite their innocence. The beating of suspects was learned well from the British Masters and brutally enforced by their West Indian replacements in the like of Fields, Thompson, Gittens et al. I can't believe that 40+ years later this stain on our criminal justice has never been addressed.

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 11 months ago

Pretty much - except they didnt have Icy Hot 40 years ago. Ive come to understand it has other uses besides the relief of muscle pain.

But dont let that stop you from rushing Junkanoo and celebrating Independence. These things always happen to "other people", not you.

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licks2 1 year, 11 months ago

So I see that yall think that everybody who accuses a police of beating them is telling the truth? Accusing the police of beating is a sure way to come into some big money. . .and every little petty criminal on our streets knows that better than some of us on this site!! Police must not abuse anybody for any reason. . .I personally report a police office for slapping a drunken man on bay street for nothing!! I could say for nothing because I was present when the police asked him a question and before he could say boo: "POW". . .the police "ringed his head off" . . .as the young people say on the streets. . . grabbed the back of his pants and took him to the station. . .and I follow and reported to the desk that the police assaulted that man for no reason!! One office asked me if I want to get lock up too!! They listened to me. Also, I have heard young thugs saying how they will lie about getting beating by police to help them get off or get paid!! So just lets wait and see. . .all kinds of schemers are out there. . .as well as there are brutal police officers in there. . . let the investigators determine who is whom. . .TAKE NO SIDES. . .OR FIND YASEF PROTECTING SLIMY SCHAMERS OR BRUTAL POLICE. . .DON'T RUSH TO JUDGEMENT!!

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 11 months ago

Actually we do believe them. Because the police have given us cause to. Just last week a retrial was ordered of two police officer acquitted in the death of a man who died in police custody with the appellate judge stating that the FACTS would indicate that the only time the DEAD man could have received his injuries was while in custody. Good Police officers know who the bad ones are, they know the ones with relationship issues, psychological issues and substance abuse issues. For that matter Dames knows too, he was on the force he knows

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licks2 1 year, 11 months ago

You just proved my point. . .let the investigators settle the case. . .we should not blindly follow any side. . .bad people and liars are on all sides!!

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ThisIsOurs 1 year, 11 months ago

The police can stop the assault n their good reputation immediately. They can contract a firm to install cameras throughout every police station starting tomorrow with an independent firm auditing the functioning of the cameras.

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mandela 1 year, 11 months ago

In the year 2019 all police interviews and questioning should be done before or in a room with cameras, which would secure honest confessions, also the RBPF needs educated investigators and not the D average and below officers to solve cases and uncover evidence that will hold up in court. We are still operating like we are in 1919.

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licks2 1 year, 11 months ago

They doing that now. . .it is when the crooked cops. . .or crooked criminal get out of camera view that we have "he-say-she-say". . . criminal are not fools. . .they know they only have to cry foul and bleeding hearts like most of you will put pressure on the cops without getting the facts. . .even the immigrants doing that too. . .

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Chucky 1 year, 11 months ago

I gonna laugh next time I hear a pig get what coming to him

I gonna laugh even harder, when I hear that a bunch them pigs get some torture given back to them when they themselves end up in fox hill

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DEDDIE 1 year, 11 months ago

A worker of mine told me several years ago that he was beaten by the police. He said he was taken in the Pine Forest and beaten with a PVC pipe. He said, he was relieved when an inspector showed up. To his dismayed the inspector told the officers to take him further into the forest because someone heard the screams and call 911.

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John 1 year, 11 months ago

So police men are now beating and torturing women? And violating their rights as females ? Being man handled by police men? Anthony Ferguson and Marvin Dames this puts more into question about you than just being police officers. Now your officers not only half killing the men with beating and shooting them dead with loads of bullets but now indecently violating the rights and privacy of women? Beating a woman like a dog Marvin Dames? A female Marvin Dames.A disgrace to your uniform and office and your mothers or wivesf or allowing it to continue to happen. To innocent women. The police are now cruel and barbaric and dangerous and deadly than the criminals both to humans and to animals, dogs more specifically. The public must stand united and bring these sick persons to justice. No one is above the law. This law enforcement team is probably the weakest and most disgraceful plank in the Minnis Administration and if Minnis doesn’t seek to clean it up and harness Marvin Dames and Anthony Ferguson in their deadly assault on the Bahamian public, it will cost Minnis dearly in the next election. Remove them forthwith.

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Chucky 1 year, 11 months ago

It's time to turn things around!

We want the police to be scare of us , not the other way around.

They works for us!

If we don't do something about this , they gonna keep this going.

It's gotten to the point where they been doin this so much , for so long, they think they can just do it and say them "bad guys" and get away with it.

We need make them so scare of the people that they behave properly,

From now on folks, when police come round crowd of people let's surround them and make sure they no we the boss. We ain't gonna have do much, but jus make sure weake them back down , they can't scare us , and they can't kill and beat us all.

Our cops are so dumb they shouldn't have weapons.

These pigs make about 1500 a month, We should bring in outside police to clean up our pigs. If our pigs got any more than 2 dollars in there pocket or have anything nice. It's obvious they steal and are corrupt and these outside police could lock me up

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licks2 1 year, 11 months ago

Talking dumb nonsense as usual around here. . .

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John 1 year, 11 months ago

Ask yourself ‘Who has the police partnered with (or partnered with again) since the FNM came to office? And that crew who is ‘ sic in ‘ the police on its own people like dogs and teaching them illegal military torture tactics cannot do this in their own country. Not only will they receive life sentences, but tons of legal lawsuits totaling millions of dollars. And the police who carry out these torture and abuse are not men. They never were. Their male gonads have been removed along with a great portion of their common sense. How can you report to work day after day, night after night and beat and torture your own people? Ninety five percent of whom are innocent. No police officers but national disgrace to the uniform. And how long will the Bahamian people sit back and allow these torture chambers to continue to operate? The police by acclamation are now the biggest and most dangerous gang operating in the Bahamas.

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