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Friday, December 3, 2021

Trinidad: Toddler, dad gunned down in Tunapuna

CoP calls on citizens to let their voices be heard in support of the innocent

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(Trinidad Guardian) Instead of presenting Stephon Mc Leod with a gift as the nation celebrates Father’s Day on Sunday, the family are instead mourning the death of the 40-year-old man and his toddler who were ambushed and shot on Friday night in Tunapuna

McLeod and his daughter, Aniah, two, were shot around 7.30 as they drove along Achong Trace, which is located off Balthazar Street, Tunapuna.

Questioning what her innocent baby did to deserve being gunned down along with her father as the two went to a parlour around the corner from the girl’s home that night, Melinda Jaggernauth, 26, said, “She was my everything…why did they do that to her? She didn’t even start to live her life yet.” Aniah celebrated her second birthday on June 1.

Sitting slightly hunched with her arms folded tightly and tears streaming down her face when the Sunday Guardian visited the family’s modest home on Saturday, Jaggernauth’s mood was one of grief and anguish.

However, at times she displayed anger as she demanded answers regarding the unjust actions by the killer (s). She even blamed herself for the tragic deaths.

“If I didn’t carry the child…the child was playing in the yard here good. If I didn’t pick she up and carry she for he to see she, it woulda never reach to this. The child woulda be here…she woulda be here,” Jaggernauth cried.

A close female relative recounted what transpired before the shooting.

She said, “He passed and talk to the child as usual. She wanted to go with him and the mother gave him the child and he leave to carry her for a drive as usual right there by the shop. By the time he go to turn and come back down, it was shots and that was it.”

As Jaggernauth ran to the bullet-riddled car, the relative said the mother scooped up Aniah who was bleeding and ran home before they rushed her to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. Her father was later brought to the hospital by police officers. The father and daughter were both pronounced dead at the facility.

McLeod was a father of two girls, with the elder child preparing to write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam on August 20.

Although McLeod’s brother was killed a year ago, Jaggernauth said she was not aware he was at odds with anyone who would want him dead.

She denied the taxi-driver had any enemies as she said he was “not into them friend thing…he usually keeps to himself.”

Revealing he recently started his own business in an attempt to improve himself, Jaggernauth said the only vice McLeod had was smoking marijuana.

Rubbing Jaggernauth’s back as she too cried out for answers, Aniah’s grandmother Rosanna whispered, “She was my pride and joy. If I could ask God for anything…I just want my grandchild back.”

A diabetic, Rosanna said she had asked the parents to let Aniah, who is the only grandchild for the family, to stay at their home until she was ready to write the SEA exam so she could be part of the granddaughter’s formative years.

Jaggernauth asked, “What again it have? It have nothing. That was my everything…nothing again because that was everything. That was my little thing…they take my little thing from me.

“God don’t sleep. Them little (expletive) will crawl…they won’t even crawl on their knees. They will crawl and come and beg for my forgiveness”

She vowed not to forgive them as her daughter was innocent.

Taking comfort that Aniah was with God, Jaggernauth described her princess as one who always enjoyed playing outdoors and dressing up, impatient to put on new clothes, combing her hair and always reaching for earrings.

She said, “You never see Aniah in a dull moment. She was a sweet, loving, caring child. She is so smart…she was older than her two years.”

Pointing to a toy car parked in the front yard, Jaggernauth said it was one of her favourite toys, but she said her child was always appreciative of anything anyone gave to her. Autopsies on the father and daughter will be conducted on on Monday at the Forensic Science Centre, St James.

Although police officers returned to the area around the same time that media personnel were interviewing the Jaggernauth family and were seen taking away a suspect in handcuffs, officers denied it was in connection with the killing of Stephon and Aniah.

CoP wants citizens to let their voices be heard in support of the innocent

Extending condolences to the Jaggernauth family, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on Saturday took to social media to question when will citizens start calling for justice for this baby and the many children lost to senseless gang violence.

“I have never toed the line expected of or from those with agendas. I call a spade a spade, and though I continue to be dragged over the coals for speaking the unpopular truths, I have continued so to do.”

Griffith said, “When we are met with news of an innocent two-year-old baby being caught in the crossfire of a murderous onslaught, perpetuated by those who cared nothing about curtailing the life of this innocent, many questions immediately come to mind.”

He said these questions include where are the requests for marches and protests against such acts of barbarous brutality against children? Also, when will the various lines of outreach to communities including the 555, TTPS App, and 482-GARY be overrun with credible information to be transformed into intelligence to support the swift capture of these monsters; the mass outcry on social media and the many platforms for justice for this baby and the many children lost to senseless gang violence; the sound and fury by activists, politicians, and newspaper editorials calling on communities to work with the police to bring these perpetrators to immediate justice; and the demands for justice and to call the names of the killer (s).

Griffith wondered if this last question was only reserved for the hurt and pain conveniently felt only when there are police-involved killings.

Griffith said “Every life lost is one life too many, and is and should be treated as heinous.

“However, when murderous gangsters intentionally point their illegal weapons at their target and proceed to pull that trigger regardless of who their target may be, and takes the life of an innocent, a baby no less, demands equal outcry. If this doesn’t move us to work together, I am not certain what can.”

The CoP also said while he will continue to jealously guard both the office and the men and women of the TTPS, he would not hesitate to remove those within the service who operate outside of the bounds of what is expected and required.

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