God, I trust in you. You are stronger than these police officers who took my son’s life.”
It was hard for family members to hold back the tears standing over the grave of their loved one. Allan Louisy’s mother sobbed uncontrollably, and his older siblings stood quietly next to her wiping away their own tears as she prayed. Allan’s older brother Merwin Louisy wore a peculiar necklace around his neck, that didn’t quite blend in with his clean cut attire, but he soon revealed the chain had belonged to his brother, and had been given to him by police officers just after the tragic incident.
It’s impossible to forget the incident that claimed the lives of five men all in one night at the hands of police who were allegedly intercepting a robbery in Vieux Fort in May 2011. Several questions remain unanswered and families of the victims have openly spoken out against the killings they say were unlawful. For the families of John Baptiste Mc Farlane, Mitchel Cadette, Allan ‘Lenny’ Louisy, Myron Dupal and Kevin Ferdinand, ‘Operation Restore Confidence’ of 2011 more than anything gave them more reason to distrust law enforcement in St Lucia. In the process of making the island safe for all 11 men lost their lives in police related killings.
The family of Allan Louisy spoke to the STAR last week at the cemetery in Vieux Fort where the young man was buried. It was quite an eerie feeling, standing next to the grave of the young man who would’ve turned 23 on January 23, had his life not been cut short.
One year on the family’s frustrations had turned into a sort of quiet anger, but they made it clear they were on a mission to seek justice for Allan’s death.
“So far nothing has been done,” Allan’s older sister Merlisa Charlemagne said. “ I think the police spoke with my brother Merwin about the case last year just after it happened. They said they would be in contact but we haven’t heard anything up to now. They didn’t let us go into the autopsy because they said it was a police case. We were only allowed to identify him.”
Allan lived with his 26-year-old brother and his mother in La Clery and Merwin spoke fondly of his younger sibling.
“He was a very nice person to be honest,” he said. “He was a bit hard headed at times, but when it came to his family he always listened. Anything we asked him to do he would do for us. Most of the time I believe he was peer pressured by friends. He would get into trouble now and then, you know the young guys, sometimes he’d get into fights, but no police ever came to our home saying Allan was under investigation for any form of crime.
“To hear that he was just shot and killed was very heartwrenching for us. I was waiting to get word from the officer who told me there would be an inquest into the incident. The officer told me those cases would take years, that they were prolonged for years.”
Allan’s mother Ann Louisy says the past year has been extremely difficult, as she and her son shared a close bond.
“I do craft work and he was the one helping me with the craft when he was home,” the young man’s mother told the STAR. “I sell on the Morne and I would bring down lunch and he would tell me, “Mommy don’t bother to cook,” he was the one cooking for me. The last afternoon when we spoke he told me, “It’s your friend’s birthday, ‘Aparchie’, one of the others who were killed. It was his friend’s 20th birthday and I promised to send something for him.”
That day would be the last she would see her son alive. Ann’s daughter Merlisa was the bearer of bad news, and in Ann’s words: “It’s a good thing I’m a believer, I said give God thanks and praise . . . even for those things we cannot understand.
“I’m hearing all kinds of things,” she continued. “I’m hearing news from neighbours and I’m piecing everything together.”
Ann said people were pointing fingers, but aside from all the rumours she feels something needs to be done as she says there is no proof in the robbery story. She is yet to make sense of the fact that all five men were shot and killed, when only one was said to be in possession of a firearm on the night in question.
“If it’s a shoot out and there’s one gun, obviously it would have to be one guy shooting at the police,” Merwin said. “What about the other four? They would probably run for cover, but how come they killed everyone? The security was the only witness, they say, but I think people who know what happened are afraid to come out and talk. They could have arrested them, why kill them? Something has to be done.
“Aparchie was missing an eye, you could have seen one was hollow, like it went in and the other was normal. I know these guys. His face was not looking the same. It looked like someone else. He had a huge bruise on his forehead that looked like he was hit in the head as well.”
She added: “These guys were from the ghetto, they were not perfect but why would you shoot and kill all five? You don’t kill for stealing, you arrest and the government isn’t saying or doing anything. That’s why I will not vote for anyone. That was the first close death I’ve experienced and words cannot describe how you feel.”
Merlisa couldn’t hold back her emotions and during the interview she took a moment to compose herself.
“It’s always on my mind,” she continued. “Every time I stay idle he comes into my mind. We were really close. At the beginning I would get upset every time I saw a police officer, but I know we need the police. When you lose someone that close they’re constantly on your mind. Some people are of the opinion that we should not open old wounds, but we just want the government to put things straight. Get rid of corrupt cops. We just want justice. We know we can’t get our brother back, but we want justice, that’s it.”
It’s unclear how soon an inquest into the case will be called and Director of Public Prosecutions Victoria Charles-Clarke could not be reached for comment.
“The case file is supposed to go from the police after investigations to the Coroner, but they seeked advice from the DPP and that’s where it gets stalled. If you have to go to DPP first obviously it will take awhile, the DPP has so much work to do. Once the Coroner has the file everything is put before a jury, witnesses are called and then it is determined whether it was death by misadventure. If there is any criminal liability that’s the point where it should go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The last I spoke with the DPP she said she’d advised the police as to what to do, but what advice did she give and what was that advice based on? “The family cannot get a civil suit for damages, the six month period for a civil suit has expired,” Francis explained. “Unless they put in an application for leave before the high court, to seek to file the case outside the limitation period of six months. That would be a test case, whether they would succeed. It would be a very hard burden to convince the court that an exception should be made.”
Francis spoke of the alternative option of filing a constitutional motion against the state for unlawful deprivation of life; a process she said was not as limited as a civil suit.
“There is no set time frame to file a constitutional motion, but it has to be within a reasonable time,” she added.
“That may be a route to go to solve this problem, since the limitation period has ended. That requires a lot of work and it would be breaking new ground. The important thing is to get the inquest before the Coroner. The DPP should find out if the police have followed her advice, and if not why. She would not advise them and keep the file in her office.”
The human rights advocate touched on the issue of accountability that she said fell right into the lap of the police commissioner.
“It was under his watch,” she said. “This issue is just laying there with no closure and the government is partly to blame. The new minister of home affairs should see to it certainly because the police represent the state.
“The state has an interest to ensure police act lawfully. The minister should find out why an inquest hasn’t been held. The fact that it takes so long to hold these inquests to me is a violation of the Coroner’s Act, even the spirit of the law itself. If you allow so much delay, it means witnesses might disappear. Cases like that ought not to take years. We need more public opinion to push this forward.”
Speaking on the issue of extra-judicial killings, police commissioner Vernon Francois said on a DBS news broadcast this week: “This starts with the Director of Public Prosecutions and if there is an inquest, which is a judicial process in some cases there are criminal trials, which is also a judicial process. So I think whoever is suggesting that there are extra-judicial killings going on in the police department is trying to mislead the St Lucian public and the international community at large. [These cases] will be reviewed, and if at the end of the review it is found that officers are liable for something that is illegal, then the court system will have to deal with it.”