Tuesday, 29 May 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - Armed with a search warrant dated May 23, lawmen kicked in the door to the home of Gilbert Gomes and his wife Violette early Saturday in Dickenson Bay.
The warrant, left on a kitchen counter, said the lawmen were looking for “firearm and ammunition”. It was reportedly not handed directly to the family.
According to the family, the officers entered the property by breaking a section of the fence near the southern end, and pounded on the door for 30 minutes demanding access, yet refused to identify themselves.
When Caribarena visited the scene, a ransacked home was evident, along with a broken door.
Last Tuesday, Gomes told the police that a man who had wanted to sell him over 400 pounds of lobster fired at him after he refused to purchase the catch. The man then reportedly made off in a Toyota Corolla. The police responded 45 minutes after receiving the call, according to Gomes.
The team of 11 officers said Saturday’s search was in relation to that incident, which raised suspicion that guns and ammunition were in the home. The officers also reportedly took time to read personal documents lying around the home.
The family questioned why the lawmen would want to search the home for weapons when Gomes is licensed to carry a gun, and that weapon has been in police possession since 2007, when Gomes was charged for discharging it while being attacked by a man throwing stones.
But what was most alarming, they reported, about was that a female officer forced Violette Gomes to strip down to her underwear while she searched her for concealed items.
“She said she had to search me," Mrs Gomes said. "And I said search me for what? I have on a nightie that you can practically see through. Can't you pat me down? She said no, and I have to strip. I said it was humiliating and harassing, but she said she didn’t care and I have to."
The family has already retained attorney David Dorsett, and plans to sue the police.
The police also reportedly ransacked the home of his daughter, Patrice, who lives downstairs.
The family suspects the police actions were in response to statements Gomes made recently in a news item carried on Observer Radio weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Police Spokesman William Holder noted that the officers acted within the law when they stomped in the door, and that the request for the woman to strip down to her underwear was not one that holds much ground for contention.
Holder did however opine that if the family felt violated in any way, they had a right to secure legal counsel.
“The police can’t call you and tell you to expect a raid, and that you must dress appropriately," he said. "A warrant is something that you have to execute with surprise, so you wouldn’t know how people would be attired when you arrive. Not only that, but if the police have a warrant, they can even break down the door, because the whole thing is to catch people surprised. And we don't know how people would be attired inside. That is why we have female and male officers attending."
He added that it is customary, in instances where women are scantily clad, for the female officer to allow them to dress under supervision.
Regarding the perceived juxtaposition of a search warrant outlining guns and ammunition to that of reading personal documents, Holder said when the police carry out a search, they may divert from the specifics of the warrant if they feel the diversion could lead them to what they are looking for.
“The police are executing a search, and it could be a case where you could find documents, guns, and ammunition transactions," Holder said. "When the police are carrying out a search, they have to be thorough."