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Candlelight vigil for slain, wounded officers in Pennywise heist


Relatives and colleagues of slain security officer Jeffery Peters, joined relatives of slain Jerry Stuart and wounded Peola Baptiste in prayer during a candlelight vigil on Saturday at the site where the tragedy occurred at Pennywise Super Centre, La Romaine. – YVONNE WEBB

FEARFUL that the reading of the budget and other issues may put the investigation into the deadly Pennywise Super Centre heist, and the officers who lost their lives, on the back burner, the Estate Police Association (EPA) held a candlelight vigil on Saturday night, on the site of the September 19 tragedy.

“The reason why we are here is because we know the nation is a ten-day wonder. We know that with the reading of the budget, this situation has gone cold,” said EPA president Deryck Richardson.

“We think that in light of what the association would have been lobbying for – better protection for security officers, exactly what was missing from this particular incident – we intend to keep a number of vigils to keep it alive.”

Friends, relatives and colleagues gathered on the spot where Allied Security officers Jeffrey Peters and Jerry Stuart were ambushed and shot dead, and their colleague Peola Baptiste critically wounded. Baptiste is still in hospital fighting for her life.

Richardson said security officers put their lives on the line every day because of the security threat in the country, and the people carrying out those threats, who they have to confront, are using high-powered rifles.

“We are outgunned and woefully undermanned, and all for a paltry salary of $18.75 per hour.”

He called on Allied Security to take care of the children and families of the dead and wounded officers beyond what is available under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

“Mr Peters has two daughters, ages two and six. We also have Mr Stuart who had two children. There has to be some support for the children, especially as their fathers would have been able to work and take care of them.”

Estate Police Association president Deryck Richardson (left), joins hands relatives of critically-wounded security officer Peola Baptiste and Pastor Brian Jones (red shirt) during a candlelight vigil for Baptiste and families of her slain colleagues Jeffrey Peters and Jerry Stuart at Pennywise Super Centre, La Romaine on Saturday evening. – YVONNE WEBB

The EPA has written to the Occupational Health and Safety Authority for an investigation into whether any breaches were detected and whether appropriate sanctions must follow.

“So, it is not a done deal. This is not something we intend to sweep under the carpet.”

Colleagues joined hands with relatives of the officers and prayed with them.

“We thought it important that we revisit the spot, and we want to thank the families for having the strength to come out here tonight at this particular place, to join with us, where we can join in fellowship and say a prayer in memory of them.”

Richardson said it is also important to keep Baptiste in their prayers.

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“Prayers is what has been sustaining her. Her pain is our pain. She is at the ICU (at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope) still making progress. Let us look at her strength and strengthen ourselves.”

As he prayed for the departed souls, the wounded, and their families, Pastor Brian Jones said, “I never thought TT would have come to this.

“Tonight we celebrate the lives of the two officers who were mercilessly gunned down on this spot.”

He also prayed for the four of six suspects in the heist, killed by the police, “who perpetrated this wicked act. We pray for their families as well, because many of their families seem to give the impression they were not aware their loved ones were involved in this. So we pray for mercy.

“Let the EPA never stop until full justice is done with these companies, that they will make the requisite changes to protect the lives of the officers who continue to work.”

He also prayed for the full restoration of Baptiste’s physical and mental health.

Peters will be laid to rest on Monday, after a service at the Mt D’or Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Stuart’s funeral was held last Friday at the Belgrove’s Funeral Chapel, Tacarigua.