By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A POLICE officer was justified in killing a man who shot him and his partner with a high-powered weapon after leading them on a high-speed chase in a stolen vehicle two years ago, a jury determined on Friday.
The jury unanimously found that 22-year-old Akeem Thompson’s death at the hands of Detective Constable 2071 Avard Rolle in the Fire Trail Road area in May 2017 was a lawful killing.
During the inquest before Her Majesty’s Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez, the jury heard how shortly after 3pm on May 20, 2017, police were conducting a traffic stop on Shrimp Road off Carmichael Road, when they saw a dark grey Honda Stream, licence plate number 252587, occupied by two armed male suspects.
D/C Rolle signaled to the driver to stop, but he refused and sped off, driving recklessly as he tried to evade the officers through several short cuts. A chase followed that ended when the Honda Stream crashed into a fence in the Pride Estates community.
Thompson and another man got out of the vehicle and opened fire at the police, the former with an AK-47 and the other man with a handgun. D/C Rolle consequently returned fire. Thompson and the other man subsequently jumped a nearby fence that led to a track road. However, Thompson, who was dressed in a white t-shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes, was shot in the process.
Thompson fell and his weapon dropped to the ground. He tried to flee again, but fell a few feet from his weapon. D/C Rolle and another officer subsequently pursued the other man, who was dressed in a green shirt and dark-coloured trousers. However, that man escaped.
Meanwhile, D/C Rolle’s superior, Assistant Superintendent Keith McDonald and another officer, tried to communicate with Thompson, who was conscious at the time, in a bid to ascertain his name and the nature of his injury. However, Thompson only replied “I got shoot”.
Police Control Room was subsequently contacted and an emergency medical person requested. When the latter arrived on the scene, they attended to Thompson who died some time later on the scene.
According to Dr Caryn Sands, a pathologist at the Princess Margaret Hospital, Thompson died from two gunshot wounds, one that entered his lower back and passed through his lung before stopping in his lower neck, and one to his left thigh.
Sergeant Laurence Smith, a crime scene investigator, said when he arrived on the scene, and after having received information, he went over to where the assault weapon was and made a few observations. He said he observed 16 live rounds in the weapon’s magazine, and an additional round in the chamber.
Charles Bain, an RBPF firearms examiner, said a bullet purportedly fired from the firearm Thompson was brandishing, a Zastava 7.62x39 auto-loading pistol was submitted to him for analysis. However, he said due to the bullet’s “severe mutilation”, he could not determine its calibre, “total number of lands and grooves” and whether it was fired by that gun.
Nonetheless, Mr Bain said the firearm functioned “satisfactorily” when he examined and tested it out, and was fully capable of firing the 17 unfired rounds of 7.62x39 ammunition found in its detachable box magazine.
Another officer, Detective Constable Andrew Deveaux, an investigator attached to the Central Detective Unit (CDU), said when he checked the RBPF’s system, he found that the vehicle was registered to a woman, and was reported stolen some 19 days before the incident on May 1.
Corporal Frederick Delancy, a firearms instructor with the RBPF, suggested that D/C Rolle was “outgunned” because he went up against a gun that was three times more powerful than the service pistol he used to ultimately kill Thompson.
Though D/C Rolle ended up killing Thompson, Cpl Delancy said D/C Rolle engaging in a shootout with a gun that shoots some 2,400 feet per second faster than his handgun “wasn’t a fair fight”, due to the sheer “potential for destruction” the AK-47 has.
As an illustration, Cpl Delancy said the 9mm Uzi that the RBPF utilises, which is somewhere between a handgun and a rifle such as an AK-47 or M4, has a 200 yard kill range. However, he said the AK-47 has a 600 yard kill range, and its bullets have a “tumbling distance” of about 1,200 yards. Thus, he said, the AK-47 is three times more powerful “than any Uzi the (RBPF) has”.
To that end, he said that should officers on mobile patrol encounter a suspect with an AK-47, their only “safe haven” is the vehicle’s rear axle where the vehicle's transmission and other "heavy, metal gears" are located. Otherwise, he said, the AK-47's bullets will "walk" through the car.
“It will walk through the engine, it will walk through the doors," Cpl Delancy said. “…If someone has some degree of training (in using an AK-47), it’s over for the policeman.”
“Only persons with criminal intent and the intent to deprive people of their lives would be in possession of AK-47’s,” he added, as he agreed with suggestions that the AK-47 is a “weapon of war” that has no place in civilized societies.
Attorney Bjorn Ferguson represented D/C Rolle during the inquest.