Almost two years after shooting to death a juvenile in Nevis, Constable Zaviel Jeffers, a member of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, has had no charges placed against him despite the director of public prosecution advising to “charge him.”
Speaking with the Observer on Aug. 12, DPP Valston Graham revealed that after reviewing the file and the inquest report, he was of the opinion Jeffers should be charged with manslaughter.
“In November, I gave an indication and a commitment that I would, in fact, review the file and the inquest report on the matter and determine whether or not I consider prosecution was appropriate or necessary,” Graham said. “I carried out that review and, having considered all material I had before me, I was satisfied that the actions of Constable Jeffers was, in fact, disproportionate and could not be justified in my view, given the circumstances. As such, on April 12, I wrote to … Commissioner of Police Ian Queely and I advised him that criminal charges for the offense of manslaughter should be brought against constable Jeffers.”
In October 2015, Philo Wallace, 17, attended a party at Enrique’s night club in Charlestown. It is alleged that an altercation ensued between him and an off-duty member of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force identified as Constable Jeffers. Wallace was shot in the chest that night as he ran toward the exit. He was rushed to the Alexander Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
An inquest report was completed, which was to inquire who died, when they died and how they died. The inquest began in January 2016. Jurors met every Thursday and Friday until March 10. Dr. Henry Browne Q.C represented the Wallace family. Former Attorney General Jason Hamilton, along with attorneys Marsha Henderson and Vaughn Woodley, appeared on behalf of the police officer. In March, a five-member jury rendered 4-1 a justifiable homicide verdict in favor of Jeffers.
After the verdict was rendered, a court official previously told the Observer the verdict does not determine whether or not the officer is guilty or not. “He was not acquitted of any crime,” the unidentified official said.” It was an inquest [and] is not a criminal proceeding or a trial. The inquest was to inquire on who died, when they died and how they died.”
The official further stated that the DPP will determine whether or not to press charges and that decision will solely be up to the DPP after looking at the evidence. It was emphasized the inquest held at the magistrate court was “just an inquiry process.” According to the law, “all inquisitions and records of proceeding at any inquest shall be transmitted the Director of Public Prosecution within seven days of the inquest date.”
The DPP noted that that he communicated with both Dr. Henry Brown QC and Ruth Powell of the Foundation of Social Concerns, a nonprofit organization, that he spoke with Commissioner Queely.
“I did not at the time give them what conclusion I had arrived at because I did not think that it was appropriate for me to diverge to them the advised that I had given to the Commissioner of Police,” Graham said. DPP Graham said that his office followed the proper protocol and the question that should be placed on the COP is “why he hasn’t acted on my advice? The fact that no further action was taken in the matter does not at the fault of my office. I have completed the review of the matter and I have advised the commissioner, as it is normally protocol. Any question as to why no further action has been taken should now be directed to the commissioner of police as to why he hasn’t acted on my advice.”
The Observer contacted Queely Monday, but when questioned, he noted that “[I] am out of the federation, Plz contact DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) Brandy.”
He noted, however, that “I can say to you that he (Constable Jeffers) is not charged.”
The Observer followed Queely’s instructions and contacted DCP Brandy, who has yet to response.
“I understand the concerns of the family and the groups concerns,” Graham said, “ because I quite understand and accept as they would like to see closure to the matter. … Therefore I do not blame them for speaking out, but I want to make clear that any delay or any progress in the matter thus far does not lie with my office.”