Circumstances behind City Gate incident evoke family's desperate plea for help

Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 12:15

Three weeks ago a young father created a stir at City Gate as he sat on the roof of the transit hub, attracting the attention of the police and onlookers.

Video footage captured by post-work commuters showed police officers stealthily approaching the man from behind as a voice stood out above all others, saying "Alyuh hold him please. Please hold him."

The voice was that of the young man's mother begging for the police officers to save him from harming himself.

At the time it was thought that the man was suicidal. Other information coming from police to us suggested that he was allegedly on the run after picking someone's pocket.

Neither piece of information was true.

As we sat down with the mother and sisters of the young man, who we'll call Alec (not his real name), the story of what transpired on Tuesday, April 4th, took on a different form.

Alec, who worked as a security guard at City Gate, was the subject of some troubling news.

Just days prior, he was confronted by someone who threatened to kill him and wipe out his entire family as well, including his 4-year-old son who did not live with him.

The night before the City Gate incident, he tried calling family members and when he awoke the next morning he tried again. 

When he failed to get through, Alec began believing that the threat against his family had been carried out.

Distressed, he went to a place he felt comfortable, his workplace, and wanted to be alone. So, his mother told us, he climbed onto the roof of the building where he had apparently stayed for several hours.

He eventually got through to a family member but told them he was not coming down until he saw all of his family.

The video footage of that day showed the man darting away from the police. He ran to where the tanks were located and tripped, falling several feet down.

Although a Transit Police officer caught him, Alec hit his head and had to be rushed to hospital.

When he was discharged after two days, he was sent for psychiatric evaluation at the St Ann's Mental Hospital.

It was to determine what mental state Alec was in when he climbed on to the roof of City Gate and there was good reason for that assessment.

As Alec lay recovering in hospital, his family told us of the struggle they had been facing leading up to the incident.

Alec, they said, had been through some traumatic experiences where the family once lived in (place-omitted), and over time they began to notice a weakening of his mental stability.

Over the years, he had been receiving treatment through a drug called 'Invega-Sustenna' via an offshoot branch of the Ministry of Health in Barataria.

But when the new government took office, the supplies of the drug diminished. 

Due to the high cost, the Ministry of Health opted instead to bring in smaller supplies and went for other drugs to help treat mental cases. 

One such drug was 'Modecate'. 

But Alec's mother felt the Modecate did not have the same effect on her son and in fact, it appeared to have been doing even more damage.

"Modecate was too strong for someone who doesn’t have too much of a problem. He started having serious side effects," his mother said.

"He got seizures three times from the Modecate. They had to call an ambulance to take him to hospital from the Wellness Centre. They gave him Cogentin to fight side effects," she added.

She continued: "When he takes the Invega-Sustenna he is very bright. He got into the 90s in a test he took to work as a security officer with an embassy. He was the only one who passed the test to work with the embassy. He is not a danger to anyone or to others. He works very hard. But when he gets the Modecate, you wouldn't like to see how he becomes."

She's been pleading with the authorities to put her son back onto the Invega-Sustenna but was not getting anywhere.

Our attempts to contact the medical personnel involved were not successful either but good news came this week, his mother telling us on Tuesday, that he's back on the Invega-Sustenna.

Now the family is hoping for another form of relief - that the authorities would help them to find a place to stay together as a family.

She's without a home since they left where they lived before and has been staying with a friend. 

Alec has been living in a shelter. His 4-year-old son is not living with him.

"I have no finances. I have been up and down since last week. There is no way to get anything to help my child. If I could find a place to pay rent I will be able to look after my son. Sometimes he forgets how to sleep, to eat and who knows what will happen when he is not around. But I cannot afford the rent," she told us.

To add to her troubles, she suffers from a spinal injury.

"I have been sick for 10 years. They (doctors) deemed me unfit to work but how can I do that. How can I stop working? Disability cannot do anything for me. How am I going to live and to help my son and grandson? I have nowhere for my son to go when he gets out of hospital. The people who are in charge there (where he stays at the shelter) do not care about him," she said.

Under the last government, she said she was earmarked to receive HDC housing. However, things have changed.

"I have not gotten any response in any way to anything. I went to the HDC and said to them that where I am living it is so dangerous and my son cannot stay there. I liaised with a sister at 'Living Waters' but she said they have no place for men to stay in T&T. He has nowhere to go. Groceries is no problem, all I need is a place where we can live as a family so he can be safe. The doctors are saying that as long as he is in a safe place he will get better," she told us.

She added: "I don’t have any more fight. I've reached a stage where I have no more fight. I don’t want it for free. I want to be able to hold my head up and say I am not begging. The HDC says 'everybody has some sort of problem' so I will have to wait. All my life I have worked hard and have never begged for help. But now I have reached to a point where I am begging. All I want is a safe place to ensure that my son is safe and that I can look after him until he is fully well again. I need to find a solution before I am not here anymore to fight."

CNC3 has reached out to specific health authorities for comment in relation to this report but have not yet received any responses. Because of security concerns, we've agreed to the family's request to omit the names of all involved and to withhold specific details of the risks they faced where they lived prior to the family being split up.