The killing of Sydell Bourne

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Dear Editor,

The recent shooting that ended the life of 16-year-old Sydel Bourne is presented in the newspaper media as an act of a police officer preventing his wife from being robbed. Is that the only issue in this incident? What about whether the officer’s use of his weapon was justified?

The newspapers reported mainly from the police statement on the incident. But the Stabroek News report on the incident acknowledges some doubts about the formal Police report in stating, “While the shooter has told the police that the teen robbed his wife, some witnesses claimed that he was merely accused of attempting to do so before being shot in the back.” (SN, November 4)

There was no indication in the press or by police statement that there would be an independent investigation. These reports are unhelpful to concerned citizens whose interest is to have an objective appraisal of the shooting. We were told that the officer had accompanied his wife to shop at the Stabroek Market. She was attacked by three robbers one with a knife, who snatched her gold chain. What the reports don’t say is whether the husband was with her at the time of the attack or witnessed it from a distance. This is an important factor in the imbroglio and requires investigation and transparency.


From all appearances, the officer was not a victim of the attack since he did not claim self-defense. And he said that one of Bourne’s accomplices shouted “stab her”. If he was beside his wife there would be no need for her to fight off Bourne’s attack as reported. The officer would have pulled his gun and the attackers would probably have run off upon seeing the weapon. It is more likely that the officer was some distance from his wife and his decision to shoot was not spontaneous, but actually deliberate.

There is no evidence that the officer shouted, “police” or fired a warning shot. Neither did he aim at the lower part of the attacker body. It is beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officer fired his weapon with the intent to kill. He is trained in the use of his weapon and knows the law on the use of deathly force.

What I find interesting is the Stabroek News November 8th 2021 edition article captioned ” No evidence to arrest cop who shot teen dead at market – Commander”. In the report the Region 4 (A) Assistant Commissioner Simon Mc Bean is quoted as stating: “There is nothing at this point to place him under close arrest…”. Given the issues I raised above, one would think otherwise but not so with Commander Mc Bean.

This is the type of leadership that condemns the Guyana Police Force for uncivilized policing methods and the reckless use of deadly force by officers. But the deadly shooting of the very young by the police has had a long history. In 1972 when a 15 year old Keith Caesar was shot and killed by the police in Tiger Bay there was public outrage and the sitting Prime Minister was forced to publicly call on the police to investigate the shooting while groups at the time like the Movement against Oppression called for an enquiry into the youth’s death. Nearly fifty years later we are still pleading for transparency (inclusive of the vigilance of the press) into the killing of young men and women by the police.

Tacuma Ogunseye

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