PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday January 22, 2016 – Two secondary school students were murdered yesterday, and police and family members are trying to figure out why.
Mark Richards, 15, and Denelson Smith, 17, were forced out of a vehicle in which they were travelling yesterday afternoon and shot multiple times.
The Ministry of Education confirmed that both were students of Success Laventille Secondary School but said Richards did not attend classes yesterday morning.
The two were among four schoolboys who were in a taxi when it was intercepted by gunmen along Picton Road, Laventille, in the country’s capital, shortly after 3 p.m.
There are conflicting reports about whether the boys were pulled out or ordered out, but when they emerged from the vehicle, the gunmen opened fire on them.
They died on the scene. The other two students escaped.
As residents lamented the gun violence in the community and expressed concern that even children in uniform were not safe, police and relatives of the dead students said they were not involved in anything illegal and the motive behind the killings was unclear.
The Ministry of Education issued a statement condemning the shooting.
Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, who is in Jamaica attending a meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of The University of the West Indies, said he was horrified by the news.
“As soon as the incident happened I was contacted by officials of the Ministry of Education and I am both saddened and angry. I am disturbed by the fact that our students are not safe while using public transportation, and what is even more disturbing is that they were killed while in school uniform,” he said.
“I will be calling for a full investigation into this matter, as incidents such as this should not be allowed to occur.”
Garcia said Student Support Services will visit the Success Laventille Secondary School today to provide grief counseling to Richards’ and Smith’s classmates and teachers.
The deaths of the boys bring to 33 the number of people killed in Trinidad and Tobago in just the first three weeks of 2016.