Shooting: August 22, 2004 - Coroner’s Report: February, 25, 2008

Here are some quotes from the Nation News:

“FRIENDLY GUNFIRE HAS been ruled out as the cause of death in the case
of 31-year-old Constable Dexter Yarde, who died responding to a burglary at
Vauxhall, St James, three years ago.”

“Yarde was on patrol with partner Richard Garrett and others in search
of a rapist/burglar …”

“The post mortem showed that Yarde was shot in the heart but Garrett
could not have shot him, even accidentally. The story of Harte, corroborated the
testimony of Garrett and not even the ballistics examiners could conclude which
bullet, with three guns involved, actually killed Yarde, the coroner said.”
[Harte is Station Sergeant Bernard Harte]

Questions Arise - What happens next?

It is generally held here in the USA that ballistics testing is reliable. I am not a gun expert, but here are some techniques.

  • Path of bullet: The trajectory of the bullet can be traced back to the gun. It is all Physics, and at short distances it is even simpler - the bullet travels in a straight line. The location of the shooter can be determined by reconstructing the path that the bullet would have to have taken to produce the wound or hole in the sand etc. This evidence appears to have cleared Garrett.
  • Powder burn: I don’t know the technical term for this, but at very close range, the muzzle blast will leave a mark on the target.
  • Marks on the bullet: Each gun leaves identifiable marks on the bullet. Each gun leaves an individual fingerprint on each bullet. This method is most reliable when the gun in question is immediately available for testing, as guns change gradually over time due to wear and tear.
  • Marks on the cartridge case: The cartridge case is ejected after the bullet is fired. Each gun leaves its fingerprint on the cartridge case.

If Garrett did not shoot Yarde, who did?

If Garrett was sure he did not shoot Yarde, I imagine he would have told the investigators. At this time, a search for the actual killer should have been ordered. The report states that three guns were involved, and that the ballistics examiners could not tell which bullet killed Yarde. The report implies that the recovered bullets and cases were all from Glocks and that they were all of similar calibre.

“She said the two men, Yarde and Garrett, were firing from the same trajectory but were about ten feet apart.”

I interpret this to mean that the reconstructed trajectories put these two officers ten feet apart. If the officers were this close, it would have made it easier to rule out Garrett.

Newspaper Report is not clear if Garrett identified his target

“She said Garrett heard a number of explosions and Yarde’s torchlight disappeared and, fearing for his life, he fired his gun, a Glock, for about 20 seconds.”

This newspaper report suggests that Garrett was motivated by fear when he fired his gun. It states that “Yarde’s torchlight disappeared”, and this implies that he first lost sight of Yarde, and second fired. If Yarde and Garrett were ten feet apart, I would conclude that it was a dark night, and that the moon was obscured. The report does not state that Garrett had clearly identified a target to shoot at. At night it is very difficult to
identify “a man in the shrubs”.

There are four important gun safety laws:

  1. Always treat firearms as if they are loaded and ready to fire.
  2. Always point the muzzle away from anything you do not intend to shoot.
  3. Always keep your fingers away from the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.
  4. Always be sure of your target and of what is beyond it.

I imagine that Garrett would have received Police training and would have known these laws.

“Always be sure of your target and of what is beyond it.” A rational act would be to first identify a target and then shoot. If Garrett was unsure of Yarde’s location, firing his gun might not have been a wise idea. I hope that I have misinterpreted the newspaper report and that Garrett did indeed follow his training by first identifying his target and then shooting. If Garrett had visual contact with his target, and the range was close, it is likely that the target would have been hit. I also hope that all officers receive adequate firearms training including adequate time on the range.

Garrett Sued the Attorney-General and the Chief of Police

“POLICE CONSTABLE Richard Garrett, who was with fellow constable Dexter Yarde when he was shot and killed a year ago, is suing the Commissioner of Police and Attorney-General for defamation of character.”

“… Garrett claimed that a Press conference held by then Acting Commissioner of Police Bertie Hinds two days after the incident had identified him as the person who killed Yarde.”

“Last September 26, Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin told a Press briefing that following tests conducted with all three firearms used at the scene of Yarde’s death, examiners in Barbados and overseas could not determine any individual characteristics to link the bullet taken from Yarde’s body to any of the guns.”

This was September 26, 2005. Coroner’s report: February 25, 2008.

Barbados Forum, Sunday 29, August-2004

“Surrounded by other senior officers, all looking down spirited, Hinds said a forensic examination had revealed the gunshot injury Yarde received in the head last Sunday morning in the wee hours while responding to a burglary report on the West Coast, was fired from a police service firearm issued to one of the responding officers. At the time of his death, Yarde, a father of two and formerly of Charnocks, Christ Church, was attached to the Force’s Major Crime Unit.”

Three Guns

Which one fired the fatal shot?

  • The report states “Garrett could not have shot him”. That rules out Garrett’s gun.
  • “… Yarde and Garrett, were firing …” implies one of the three guns was Yarde’s. If Yarde shot himself, powder burns would be visible. This would rule out Yarde’s gun.
  • Logically, if two guns are eliminated, the remaining third gun would be implicated.

The problem with logic is that faulty assumptions lead to faulty conclusions.

Continue the Investigation!

Three years after the shooting, we find out that Garrett did not shoot Yarde. It is a shame that he would have to wait this long. The trail may be cold, but the death of a policeman is a serious matter. If the man in the bush was responsible, cartridge casings would have been found in the vicinity from which he fired. The person responsible for the death of Constable Dexter Yarde should be identified. If it was an accident, this should be stated and steps taken to reduce the probability of a reoccurrence.

Other stories involving shooting: BFP - BU