Three police officers are being investigated following the death of 44-year-old Jamaican, Humphrey Mitchell who allegedly jumped out of a moving police vehicle in an attempt to escape police custody. The incident happened in the area of mile three on the Stann Creek Valley Road while officers were transporting Mitchell to the Dangriga Police Station from Sarawee Village. There are no other eyewitnesses, meaning that investigators of the Professional Standards Branch are going by the account of the officers involved. However, Commander ACP Chester Williams says they are being thorough in their investigation.
ACP Chester Williams – Commander, PSB
“Well from what we have gathered from the police officers concerned there are three police officers, we have no independent witnesses. The officers from their own account is that they had gone to Sarawee Village and they went to the home of Humphries Mitchell who was wanted on the strength of a commitment warrant ordered by the court where the court commits a person to prison for probably not having paid a fine the court may have imposed on them. The officers are saying that on their way to Dangriga Town from Sarawee reaching the curve at mile 3 on the Hummingbird Highway the individual jumped out of the police vehicle with a view to escape but when he did so he didn’t clear the pan of the vehicle properly and that caused him to fall on the street which resulted in him receiving head and body injuries. He was rushed to the Southern regional hospital where he later succumbed to the injuries received. We are investigating the matter and as I said at this time we have not encountered any one to refute the account as given by the police but we are looking to see whether or not there is any administrative issue where the police could have done to avert this incident from occurring and from what we are seeing yes there are some administrative issues that the officers will have to be dealt with. One we are questioning why it is that the individual was placed in the back of the police vehicle with one police officer when in fact there were only three of them in the vehicle, there was sufficient face in the back part of the vehicle where the individual could have sat between two officers and that again could have prevented him from trying to escape. Secondly the issue as it pertains to the camera inside the vehicle. As you know the teams are equipped with cameras that point forward and one pointed to the rear and the camera was disconnected at the time. From investigation it reveals that the camera was disconnected from February 19 so we are questioning why it is that nothing was done to ensure that since February 19th until the date of this incident that the camera has not been in operation even though the camera is in working condition so we are looking at that and we have standing operating procedures when it comes to operating our vehicles that the driver of a vehicle upon taking over a vehicle must do proper inspection of the vehicle to ensure that the vehicle is in proper working condition and those things that are attached to the vehicle are in place. In this case the driver had a responsibility to ensure that the camera was plugged in and in working condition. He did not do that and so he will have to face the music where that is concerned. Likewise the supervisor the corporal who was with him.”
“Now was Mr.Humphries handcuffed?”
ACP Chester Williams – Commander, PSB
“From all indications he was not handcuffed and I have also viewed the body at the hospital morgue and I have not seen any signs to suggest that there were any handcuffs on him at the time. Well I can only speak from my examination of the body. I am not seeing any injuries to suggest that he had any bruises from any beating but that question will be answered fully by the pathologist when the post mortem is conducted tomorrow.”
Mitchell was taken to the Southern Regional Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The file, when completed, will be forwarded to the DPP for further instructions. The three officers, two men and one woman, remain on active duty.