PHILIPSBURG–Police officer Richmer Michel Patrik York (23) did not act in self-defence when he shot and killed Hakeem Kwame Isidora in Happy Estate, Belvedere, on March 4, the Judge in the Court of First Instance ruled Wednesday.
The young officer, who has been suspended since the fatal incident, was acquitted of murder, but found guilty of manslaughter and possession of an illegal firearm, which merited an eight-year prison sentence, the Judge stated.
York, who is detained at KIA prison in Aruba for safety reasons, was arrested May 17 in connection with the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Isidora. The Prosecutor’s Office had called for 12 years for manslaughter. Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel had pleaded for her client’s acquittal for self-defence and had called on the Court to dismiss all prosecution of her client.
Following the recommendations of the prosecution and the defence, the Judge also did not find it proven that York had committed premeditated murder, but rejected the defence’s position that York had had no other option but to aim his firearm and shoot at Isidora, who was standing next to the police officer’s car.
In its verdict, the Court elaborated on the circumstances leading up to the incident.
According to the defence, York was trapped inside his car, which was surrounded by men who were threatening him. This had made it impossible for him to drive away, while Isadora was threatening him verbally with one hand hidden under his clothes and Isadora’s brother was threatening York with an axe. When Isidora suddenly opened the door on the driver’s side of his car, York had no time to fire a warning shot and no other option but to defend himself with his service weapon.
The Prosecutor’s Office did not deny that the defendant had found himself in a threatening situation. However, Prosecutor Gonda van der Wulp said during the hearing on October 28 that York had had other options and ample opportunity to drive away from the scene, as the engine of his car was running, in gear and without the handbrake on. Instead, the off-duty police officer kept waiting in his car with his gun in his lap, the Prosecutor pointed out.
The Prosecutor also stated that York had actively sought a confrontation with the man with whom he had been in trouble for a long time. The shooting followed a few hours after the latest “shouting match” between the two.
The shooting occurred after York came to the neighbourhood to pick up his girlfriend, who lived next to Isidora. He believed he was being disrespected as a police officer, as Isidora had called him a “faggot.” According to his girlfriend, York then showed his gun to Isidora and said: “One in here is for you.”
A couple of hours later, when York brought his girlfriend home and they were still talking in the car, the problems started anew. When Isidora and his brother came up to the car York told his girlfriend to go inside her house and he called his police team leader for assistance.
Contrary to York’s statements, the Court said it had not become apparent from witness’ statements that his car had been surrounded in such a way that he could not have driven away. “Instead, he had ample space and time to drive away,” the Judge stated.
When Isidora opened the door on the driver’s side of York’s car, York immediately fired several gunshots, after which he drove away at full speed. Isidora was mortally wounded.
The Court arrived at the conclusion that being a police officer by profession, York should have decided to de-escalate the situation instead of escalating it more and more.
Due to his profession, education and training, his self-containment and “tactical insight under precarious circumstances” should have been higher than among “normal” civilians, the Judge said. And, in case of a confrontation with suspects, an officer is not supposed to pull his service weapon too soon and should remain able to take “weighed decisions.” In this case, the correct decision would have been to drive away, the Judge stated.
The Court held it against York that he had shot dead a young man who had treated him without respect and had threatened him while he was not on duty and in a situation in which it had not been necessary to defend himself.
“In this way … suspect acted in flagrant contrast with what could have been expected from him as a civilian and particularly as a police officer,” the Judge stated.
It was also held against York that he had not only his service weapon in his car, but also an unlicensed alarm pistol. It was also taken into consideration that he was a first offender and that due to his youthful age he was relatively inexperienced in situations such as this.
Source: The Daily Herald Suspended police officer gets eight years for fatal shooting