Three more Grenada police officers were charged with manslaughter on Sunday in the beating death of a Canadian as the country’s prime minister insisted the case isn’t indicative of the Caribbean island’s law enforcement.
“This is really an isolated case, it’s unfortunate,” Prime Minister Tillman Thomas told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from his home Sunday night.
“But people who know Grenada, people who have been coming to Grenada, will tell you that Grenada is the safest destination in the Caribbean.”
A police statement said officers Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness and Ruddy Felix were arrested and charged Sunday in the beating death of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew of Toronto, who was visiting the island about 160 kilometres north of Venezuela to see family.
Relatives have accused a group of officers of beating Bartholomew into a coma last Monday.
They say he was killed after mistaking a plainclothes female police officer for a friend, lifting her for a hug in front of a police station in the island’s southeast. Bartholomew died of his injuries at a local hospital one day after the attack.
The Sunday arrests brought the number of police suspects to five. Officers Kenton Hazzard and Wendell Sylvester were charged previously after being detained on Thursday.
Police did not immediately answer requests for comment, but Thomas, who is also Grenada’s Minister of Legal Affairs, didn’t rule out the possibility of more charges.
“There may be other charges, I’m not sure,” said Thomas, who was quoted in Grenada media last week as demanding a “full and unimpeded investigation of this occurrence.”
Thomas though, added there was very little else he could say as the matter is now before the courts.
It is unclear if the five officers charged have an attorney. The suspects are due to appear before a judge on Tuesday.
The first two arrests of the police constables came shortly after police interviewed a witness, according to Derick Sylvester, an attorney for the victim’s family.
Devon Rachae, a spokesman for the victim’s family, said an independent autopsy found that Bartholomew died of trauma to the head and multiple injuries to the body. A state autopsy report came to similar but less detailed conclusions.
Bartholomew had stopped at the police station in the town of St. David’s because his wife needed to use the restroom, relatives said.
The tiny island nation’s economy relies heavily on tourism and Thomas was quick to provide assurances that tourists visiting Grenada do not need to fear the island’s police force.
“In every organization, in every grouping, you will find those who do not comply.”
With files from The Associated Press