Fearful for his life and that of his wife and children, Cocorite resident Cecil Skeete, aka Squeeze, visited the Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) on December 5 where he told police he was forced to recant his claims that he was threatened with a gun to his head and physically assaulted by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
Skeete, 50, had been in communication with officers of the PSB since July 2019 following an alleged incident between him and Griffith which was recorded in the Four Roads Police Station Diary.
Following that incident, two separate entries were made by Sgt Hannibal (Ag) and Cpl Mohammed (AG) of the Four Roads Police Station on June 21 and 23, 2019, respectively, following which officers of the PSB commenced an investigation.
The PSB also sought an interview with Skeete shortly after copies of a sworn affidavit appeared in the media. In that four-page sworn affidavit signed on November 26 and stamped by Commissioner of Affidavits Cindy Sinanan, Skeete stated although Griffith thumped a desk at the Four Roads Police Station in June, at no time did Griffith touch him.
This contradicted what he told the Sunday Express during an interview in Cocorite on November 12, which was published in the Sunday Express on November 24 in an exclusive story headlined “Gary Choked Me”.
When Skeete visited the PSB on December 5, the Express understands he was trying to access protection for his family and himself via the Witness Protection Programme and had indicated his willingness to again swear an affidavit detailing his communications with Griffith. The Express understands that Skeete communicated with PSB officers via text and WhatsApp in early December, where one officer indicated to Skeete that a senior police officer had found out about the investigation and officers from the PSB who were involved in Skeete’s investigation were to be transferred.
(The police last communicated with Skeete on Sunday morning hours before he was killed when he was asked by an officer for his attorney’s number.)
Upon entering PSB’s Henry Street, Port of Spain office on December 5, Skeete spoke to Sgt Modeste (AG), indicating he was forced to recant his claims that he was threatened and physically assaulted by Griffith since he feared for the life of his children and wife.
According to Station Diary Day Duty—12969 Sgt Modeste reported that, “around midday on the 27/11/19, he was summoned to the office of ag Snr Supt Samaroo at the Professional Standards Bureau Building, Port of Spain, where ag Snr Supt Samaroo handed to him a two-page computer generated print with the heading Trinidad and Tobago Guardian and the date Wednesday, November 27, 2019 and gave him instructions to continue into allegations within the said print.
“A/Sgt Modeste reported having read the print and observed that same contained an allegation made by one Cecil Junior Skeete against Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith relative to an assault and threats. Ag Sgt Modeste further reported having made contact with one Cecil Skeete and around 12.30 p.m. today 5/12/19, met a man of African decent, grey beard, greying low hair, about 5’9’ medium build, who gave his name as Cecil Junior Skeete alias “Squeeze” of 289 LP Freedom Street, Henderson Lands, Cocorite.
“Sgt Modeste further reported having a conversation with Cecil Junior Skeete and read aloud the contents of two (2) pages printed dated 27/11/19 and showed same to him and Cecil reported to Ag/Sgt Modeste that the news article was not true and that the boss called him to do the Affidavit and he had to do it to protect his wife and children as his wife works HDC and August 2019, police shoot and killed his older son”.
(According to a Newsday report dated November 27, Griffith was asked by Newsday reporter Jensen La Vende if “he had bribed, threatened or otherwise induced Skeete to make the declaration, Griffith became angry and said it was ‘a stupid question’ before hanging up the phone. He later accused this reporter of being part of the media team conspiring against him before blocking this reporter on WhatsApp”.)
‘Gary choked me’
The entry continues, “Cecil also stated that in June 2019 he was in custody in the Four Roads Police Station, after he went into the St James Police Station with a Mesch Farrell and a woman police whom he knows as Gibson, aka Wonder Woman, after WPC Gibson met him and told him that Snr Supt Pragg wanted to talk to him about the gang activities in the area and to assist the police in bringing peace in the area. Whilst at the St James Police, he spoke with four men who indicated they were the Snr Supt, Supt, ASP and Insp where they questioned him after which he was informed by Snr Supt Mr Pragg that he would be taken into custody as Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith wanted to see him.
“He and Farrell were then taken to the Four Roads Police Station where they were placed in a cell without being charged. Skeete further reported that the day after whilst still at the Four Roads Station, he was taken to a room in the station where he saw several police officers inclusive of Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith who was dressed in black and had a side arm (firearm). Skeete further reported that he recognised Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith from seeing him on the media and was familiar with his face and at the time the room was lit with bulb. Skeete further reported that Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith ordered the other police officers out of the room and when the men left, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith asked him if he was ‘Squeeze’ who was running the Rasta City gang and started to choke him. Skeete further reported that he asked Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith why he was getting on so and Gary Griffith pushed him to a wall,took out the gun that he had on him and placed it to his head and told him, ‘I could kill you and say to my men that you try to take my gun’. He also said that he continued to ask Gary Griffith why he was doing this when Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith started to punch him to the stomach and told him that he can give him cocaine and start him off with two years.”
Second meeting with Griffith
Additionally, Modeste noted in the PSB station diary, “Skeete also reported that after Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith had finished with him, he was returned to his cell. Skeete also reported that a couple of days after whilst still in custody,he was taken out of the cells where he again met Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and another police who took him into another room in the Four Roads Police Station, where Gary Griffith told him that he has information that he, Skeete reported him and if he, Skeete, is pursuing the matter he will instruct the police to release him and he will annihilate him or send someone to do it.
“He also reported that when Gary Griffith finished speaking to him, he Gary Griffith ordered the police to take him back to the cells and a short while after one of the police who was with the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith returned and asked to speak to him. He was again taken out of the cells and taken to another room where the police officer spoke to him and told him to remember what the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said or else, after which the officers left.
“Skeete also reported that when the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith spoke to him on both occasions he was fearful for his life and that of his family. He also reported that he was released after about four days without being charged. Skeete also reported that persons from the media came and spoke to him and articles were printed. After the news article was released he received a call on his phone 366-3402, and the person said that they were Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and Gary Griffith told him he knew the news report came out and that he wanted him, Skeete, to give a statement and to meet him Gary Griffith at the Barracks.
“However, he was uncomfortable with that . He and Gary Griffith then made arrangements to meet at St James Police (station)...He further reported that he agreed to this fearing for his and his family safety and sometime after he went to the St James Police where he met a police man in khaki uniform whom he had first met at the St James Police Station when he first went in June 2019. Skeete also reported that the police in khaki wrote a statement for him but he Skeete did not tell the police what to write and when the statement was finished, the police asked him to sign the statement... Ag/Sgt Modeste reported having received a statement from Skeete, however, he refused stating he was afraid of the incident and that he would make available a copy of the statement that he signed at the St James Station. Cecil Junior Skeete left office after exchanging the personal telephone contact with Ag/Sgt Modeste and making arrangements to collect the affidavit from his attorney and providing a copy to the police.
The Express learnt that upon hearing of the investigation, a senior police officer called Snr Supt Samaroo of the PSB on numerous occasions during November and December demanding to know why he (Griffith) and the allegations made by Skeete were being investigated and threatened to transfer and “close down PSB”.
Following this, head of the PSB ACP (ag) Totaram Dookhie was transferred to the Southern Division. However, this was rescinded and Dookhie was last Friday told to proceed on immediate vacation leave which he had accumulated.
Dookhie was also ordered to hand over all files dealing with high profile investigations inclusive of political figures—(both government and opposition) and police officers. Some of the files were near completion and awaiting direction from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Express learnt.
Additionally Modeste and four constables were also transferred from the PSB.
The Express learnt that Skeete’s investigative file was handed over to Deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip on December 19.
PCA: Arrangements made to interview Skeete
Contacted yesterday morning about the status of the Skeete-Griffith probe, Police Complaints director David West said, “It is not closed as far as I am aware, but I do not have conduct of the matter. The deputy has conduct of the matter. I am not really involved in that matter.”
Asked whether he had recused himself, West said, “No, not recused. We have a case management system where every quarter a certain team has the files for police-involved shootings and that quarter goes to the deputy director.”
Deputy director Michelle Solomon-Baksh, in an interview with the Express yesterday morning, confirmed she has taken charge of the matter.
Asked whether the shooting death of Skeete means the investigation is closed, Solomon-Baksh said, “I am not closing my investigation.”
Also asked to comment on investigators at PCA requesting a meeting with Skeete to interview him, Solomon-Baksh said, “Arrangements were in fact made for him to come in and he did in fact agree to come in.”
Sgt Mohammed’s entry
“10.39 a.m. 16887 Ag Cpl Mohammed and No. 9391 PC Dennis proceeded to the cell area of station and brought prisoner Cecil Skeete, the Commissioner then took him to the Administration Sergeant office and had an interview with him.
“10.48 a.m.—No. 16887 Ag Cpl Mohammed notes that Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith informed him that he was finished with prisoner Cecil Skeete and he is to be placed back in the cell. Ag Cpl Mohammed notes that whilst placing prisoner Cecil Skeete back in the cell at the station he reported to him that if he Cecil Skeete has information that he report him and that if he is still pursuing the matter he will instruct the police to release him and he will annihilate him or send someone to do it. He is referring to the Commissioner of Police. Shortly after a police officer from the Commissioner’s party informed ag Cpl Mohammed that he wanted to speak to Cecil Skeete. Ag Cpl Mohammed then brought him out the cell and said officer had a conversation with him in the Identification Room of the station with the door closed. On completion of that the said officer indicated that he had finished and he is to be placed back in the cell at the station and he further informed that the said officer informed him that he should remember what the Commissioner said, or else.”