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Rookie cop ambushed
A young policeman was caught by surprise and almost killed when he walked in on three men armed with high-powered guns who were robbing a Barrackpore bar on Friday night. The bandits opened fire on police constable Kashyap Ryan Lochan, 21, and his two colleagues, hitting him twice. Police believe the perpetrators were armed with mini Uzi pistols. Lochan, of Barrackpore, joined the police service just seven months ago.
Over 100 police responded to the incident and locked down the area. But despite a six-hour land and aerial search, the perpetrators managed to escape. Police said around 10.30 pm, Lochan, WPC Cholai and PC Sookoo, of the Barrackpore Police Station, were on patrol when they responded to a report of a disturbance at the Vietnam Bar at New Colonial Road, Barrackpore. They stopped in front of the bar unaware that a robbery was in progress.
But inside the bar’s gaming room, the bandits, two of whom were masked, saw when the police arrived on CCTV cameras and waited for them to enter. When Lochan approached the door to the gaming room, police said, he was greeted by gunfire. Lochan was shot in the abdomen and left leg, but he and his colleagues returned fire and he managed to scramble back to their vehicle outside.
The police van and two other vehicles were shot up during the attack. The bandits then ran to the back of the building and escaped with over $35,000 in cash, as well as cell phones, jewelry, and other valuables they stole from the bar’s patrons.
Lochan’s colleagues tried to take him to the hospital in their bullet-riddled vehicle, but the radiator was damaged and it began overheating near Monkey Town, Barrackpore. He was transferred to another police vehicle, but on the way that vehicle ran off the road and PC Sookoo injured his leg.
Eventually, another police vehicle took the injured policemen to the San Fernando General Hospital where they were treated. Lochan underwent emergency surgery and was warded in a stable condition yesterday. A contingent of police from the South, South Western and Central Divisions responded and, with the assistance of the Canine Unit and National Security helicopter, searched the area for the suspects. Police recovered over 20 spent shells and the robbery was captured on video.
Senior police, including ACP (South) Donald Denoon, Sr Supt Cecil Santana, Sr Supt Johnny Abraham and ASP Zamsheed Mohammed also visited the scene. Ag ASP Ali Mohammed of the Barrackpore police is continuing investigations. Traumatic experience
Recalling the robbery yesterday, bar owner Deonarine Gunness said he was in the gaming room while his wife Parbatee was in the bar. He said there were about eight patrons in the gaming room, when three armed men walked in and announced a hold up. Parbatee said, “I was in the bar and scream out hard. I try to push the door, but they push it back and they tie my hands with duct tape. They tell me lie down but I sit down.”
She told the Sunday Guardian they threatened to slit the throat of her worker, but she begged them to leave him alone and take the money. Gunness said, “They said, ‘everybody get on the floor, lie flat on the floor and don’t look at them.’” He said the bandits ordered them all to empty their pockets and took their cell phones, jewelry and cash. Less than two minutes into the robbery, he said, the police arrived.
“The officer kick open the door and the bandits open fire on him and there was an exchange of gunfire...heavy gunfire. The officer did not fall, he keep backing up.” In the panic, he said, the bandits forgot the bag with the money, but through a window one of the bandits ordered a patron to hand the bag to him. Gunness, who has been operating the bar for the past 35 years, said it was the second time they had been robbed. “It was very traumatising. It was terrible.”
He praised the police for their quick response and wished Lochan a speedy recovery.
Rookie cops need training
Speaking with the Sunday Guardian at the SFGH yesterday, Lochan’s cousin Rikki Rambhajan said the police service needed to introduce on-the-job training for juniors. “Something is terribly wrong. Three police officers on patrol at a time like this? Where are the senior officers? They should have been in the vehicle with them.
“I don’t know how the service operate, they need to have on-the-job experience, especially when there is a rampant free flow of arms and ammunition in the country.” He said Barrackpore was a nice community, but it had now become a hunting ground for criminals. Despite his parents’ reservations about him joining the service, Rambhajan said, Lochan always wanted to be a policeman.
Rambhajan said Lochan was very enthused about his job despite his parents Deosaran’s and Jemma’s concerns about his safety. He said they might want him to leave the service after he recovered. However, his advice to Lochan would be to “take this as a learning experience. It will toughen you up.” Doctors, he said, told the family Lochan was out of danger, as the bullet to his abdomen did not damage any of his organs.
Warning to bandits
Sr Supt Johnny Abraham yesterday urged his juniors to be alert at all times and also sent a warning to armed criminals. “I am saying to the criminals out there again and again, if you commit crime and you get away I have no problem with that.
“But if confronted by the police please drop your weapon. A firearm means only one thing, that is to kill. I have advised my officers to be ready, to be prepared for any eventuality. These officers responded to a simple disturbance and they were greeted with heavily armed bandits.”
Abraham said he was not pleased that the bandits escaped, but was confident they would be held. He also advised businessmen with gaming machines to hire security to protect themselves and their patrons.
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