‘Unlawful killing’ in custody death
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: May 08, 2013
A Coroner’s Court jury ruled yesterday that a man who died at the Southern Police Station in February was unlawfully killed.
The decision was 4 to 1.
Aaron Rolle, 20, died from a ruptured intestine caused by blunt force trauma to his abdomen on February 9, two days after his arrest on charges of escape and armed robbery. Constables 2126 Akiel Smith and 2468 Carl Smith, who said they had to forcefully restrain Rolle when he attempted to escape from the second floor of the station through a louvered aluminum window, were placed on administrative leave after his death.
The jury did not apportion any criminal or civil liability with its verdict as its role was to determine the circumstances surrounding Rolle’s death.
The officers were not taken into custody as the jury’s verdict is advisory and non-binding on prosecuting authorities.
Christina Galanos, who represented Rolle’s immediate family, called on the Office of the Attorney General to “take the obvious and necessary steps to ensure that the matter is brought to a just conclusion”.
She said that is the only way that the Bahamian public could have confidence in the system.
Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade and National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage both said they “would let the chips fall where they may” following the coroner’s investigation.
Lennox Coleby, who represents the Smiths, said he accepted the finding of unlawful killing, but maintained that he believed that Rolle came into custody with the injuries that caused his death.
All of the officers at the station claimed that Rolle was fine and made no complaints of ill health up to his death.
However, Cordero Munroe, who was in custody on a traffic offense at the time of Rolle’s death, said that Rolle complained that he was feeling ill after officers returned him to the cell on February 8. Munroe said Rolle said the officers had beat him.
Munroe said officers refused to take Rolle to hospital because they thought his complaints were an escape ploy.
Coleby said that his clients maintained that their actions to prevent Rolle’s alleged escape were justified and consistent with law. He added that they had not injured him to the extent that he would die.
The officers did not speak to the press.
However, Rolle’s father, Godfrey, and his aunt, Elmer Miller, said they were satisfied with the decision as they thanked Galanos.
Mr. Rolle said he could now sleep at night.
On Tuesday, Acting Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez is expected to make recommendations intended to prevent a similar occurrence.