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Cops idle two years before giving statement on fatal shooting

Published:Friday | February 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Six years after Paul McLaughlin was shot and killed by the police while allegedly robbing a grocery shop in Temple Hall, St Andrew, there are troubling concerns about the way the probe was handled.

The concerns come after the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI), which had responsibility for the probe up to last year, handed over the case file to the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) with critical information missing.

Colonel Paul Dunn, director of INDECOM's special case unit, revealed that when his office took possession of the file, there were no ballistic or forensic certificates for the August 2007 incident.

Dunn said the file also revealed that the two policemen directly involved in the shooting did not provide BSI investigators with statements until April 2009.

"Almost two years to get a statement from a policeman seem to be way out," remarked Dunn, even as he noted that the shooting appeared to be "clear cut".

"They could have been given in a week," he added.

153 cold cases

McLaughlin's case is one of the 153 so-called cold cases INDECOM has taken over from the BSI and is seeking to reopen the investigations.

According to the police report of McLaughlin's killing, police personnel responded to a call of a break-in at a grocery store in Temple Hall square.

The Stony Hill police responded but quickly called for assistance from the Constant Spring police.

When personnel from the Constant Spring police arrived shortly after 2 a.m., two of them reportedly went to the roof of the shop where they observed a man climbing out of a hole.

Alleged knife attack

The man reportedly used a knife to attack one of the policeman, whose firearm was still in his holster, and was shot by the lawman's colleague. He fell from the roof and was rushed to hospital where he died.

Dunn said when his investigators perused the file, it had statements from a relative of McLaughlin, given within days of the incident, and the initial investigator dated June 2008.

This is in addition to the statements from the two policemen involved, which were dated 2009.

Dunn disclosed that in 2010, BSI assigned the case to a police constable who provided a statement that was dated 2011.

"In this statement, the constable reports that several attempts were made to get statements from the other police who were at the scene," Dunn disclosed.

"The constable also states that at that date in 2011, the ballistic and forensic certificates are still outstanding as checks made with the relevant offices revealed that they were not yet ready," he added.

Dunn said the problem for INDECOM is that there were no eyewitness to confirm or deny the police account of the shooting, but insisted that the investigation would continue.