According to police statements and newspaper reports, a Special Weapons and Tactics team comprising one officer and eleven police ranks was sent to Onderneeming, Essequibo, on Tuesday night, 14th
September, 2021. Their ‘operation’ began around 2:00am Wednesday. They broke into several homes during the course of the night. They broke into the home of Orin Klass, a father of five, and traumatized his family.
The third house the SWAT team went to was that of Orin Boston, at around 4:00am. The SWAT team broke down his door and, in front of his two children, shot him in the chest with a rifle, killing Orin Boston, who had been asleep in the sanctuary of his bedroom. The police gave an account of a ‘confrontation’, but his widow said he was shot in his bed. The public has no illusions concerning a ‘confrontation’ between an unarmed man and twelve heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics specialists who broke into his home at 4:00am.
The Police had no warrant to enter or search Boston’s premises. They had no warrant to arrest Boston. They had no body cameras. They acted in the middle of the night.
The Police issued a statement: “The Guyana Police Force is assuring the relatives of Orin Boston and the general public, that the Police Force has no desire to ‘conceal the true sequence of events’, but on the contrary will be conducting a thorough, impartial and professional investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Orin Boston.” Guyanese take no comfort from any police statement that a police investigation would be undertaken by the Office of Professional Responsibility. Such investigations have been promised before; an investigation by police of police is an invitation to cover up.
It took four days for the Minister of Home Affairs, Benn, to issue a vague statement about a review of the Police Standard Operating Procedures. Retired Asst Comm Conway immediately informed the public that no such Procedures existed for the SWAT team, and there has been no further communication from the Minister. No reasonable Guyanese will take comfort from Minister Benn’s disinterested and clearly uninformed response.
The latest information is that a file has been sent to the Police Complaints Authority for review. That Authority is created to investigate complaints made against members of the Force. But its proceedings are confidential – not open to the public. Every Guyanese knows that absence of transparency leads to corruption and injustice.
A New and United Guyana calls for a Coroner’s Inquest to be conducted into the violent death of Orin Boston. The Inquest should be conducted by the district magistrate as coroner. The coroner is empowered to summon reputable residents of the neighbourhood to act as jurors during the inquest, and to subpoena witnesses and hear evidence. The Coroner’s Inquest should be public.
The public, the media, the entire country could then be informed (i) what ‘intelligence’ the SWAT team acted on to break into Boston’s home; (ii) why they did not have a search warrant to enter the premises; (iii)
whether their forced entry into those premises was lawful; (iv) what circumstances necessitated the use of deadly force by twelve trained and armed men to subdue one man in his bedroom. The coroner’s finding should inform whether a crime has been committed which should be prosecuted.
A New and United Guyana wants to be clear: if the entry into Boston’s home was unlawful, his death may be murder, and should be prosecuted as murder. If the use of deadly force by the SWAT team was not justified in the circumstances, his death may be murder, and should be prosecuted as murder, just as police officer Dereck Chauvin was charged with the murder of George Floyd.
It is time for there to be accountability in Guyana. There have been enough cover ups. This time, justice must be seen to be done for Orin Boston.
A New and United Guyana extends condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.
26th September, 2021.