Just over 100 people, with most according to police from “upscale areas of North Trinidad and from well-known families,” were charged for breaching the Public Health Ordinance regulations after police officers from the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and Western Division Task Force (WDTF) swooped down on the popular Residence nightclub in One Woodbrook Place just before midnight on Sunday.
Police had initially given Guardian Media a figure of 75 people, however, a Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) media release yesterday afternoon clarified the figure was closer to over 100.
Senior investigators told Guardian Media that police gained entry into the nightclub by breaking the chain lock to the door of the basement entrance just after 11.35 pm.
The operations were spearheaded by Senior Superintendent Kelvern Thompson along with ASP Henry and SORT.
Guardian Media arrived on the scene shortly after and went through the basement entrance to later see a man lying on the ground on his stomach, handcuffed with two police officers standing guard.
Sources said that several of the patrons who were attending a private function were not wearing masks and were later ticketed. According to the TTPS media release under the regulations, charges were laid under section 4(1) (d) of the regulations which say it is an offence to hold a public party or public fete; Section 3 (1) (a) it is an offence for someone to be found at a public place where the number of persons gathered, at any time, exceeds ten and Section 4 (4) (d) says it is an offence for a restaurant, bar or establishment, to sell or provide alcohol to its in-service customers.
The release added that 96 persons would be charged in accordance with Section 3 (1) (a), while eight persons would be charged under Section 4 (1) (d). All were charged by way of summons for the breaches.
Three Venezuelan women who were in the country illegally were also held at the club and later handed over to immigration authorities.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith in the media release in response to critics who claimed the TTPS was only raiding zesser parties said, “as you would have seen, we raided the Passage to Asia compound where a function was in progress and where 71 persons were charged for failing to wear a mask for gathering in numbers exceeding ten. Once I receive information, I will act, and I really want to thank the public for their assistance over the past weeks. I want to assure you, no matter where you live and your status in life, you cannot find sanctuary in wrongdoing.”
Several patrons who were caught off guard in Sunday night’s raid were later made to sit on the dance floor for more than three hours as police scoured their identification cards, and two sniffer dogs were also brought in to search for any illegal narcotics among those detained.
The TTPS release indicated that the patrons detained were mostly from “the upscale areas of North Trinidad and some were foreigners and children of well-known families.”
Sources told Guardian Media that some of these children who are well connected were allowed to leave without incident.
A concerned parent who arrived on the scene shortly after 2 am said his daughter was one of the persons detained inside.
He said she later spoke to him and told him that he could leave since she was not going to be arrested and she would be given a ride home by a friend who was also inside the club.
One of the management team at the nightclub who spoke with Guardian Media yesterday on the condition of anonymity said no one had been arrested contrary to other media reports.
The management personnel said that police had given them a stern warning about having any kind of events after the 10 pm cut off time.
Some other members of the management team who were at the club along with some staff members were detained by police for questioning but were later released pending further investigations.
Police had gone to the Residence night club on Friday last and knocked on the front doors, however, before the door was opened, all patrons escaped through the back entrance.
Commissioner Griffith in the media release said an investigation has been initiated to determine whether an inspector of police was “derelict in her duties when she responded to the report of the party in progress at the Residence on Friday night. Police allowed over 100 patrons to escape through the back door without charges being laid.”