The youths of East Port-of-Spain have made a pact to stand up together against the police officers they maintain killed Akel “Christmas” James in cold blood.
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Paralysed by bandit’s bullet
Almost four years after he viciously fought with a man over his own gold chain, Mark Cooke, 29, was shot in the back, in a revenge shooting.
Now paralysed, instead of seeking revenge against his attacker, Cooke has turned his life to God, and has faith that he would be able to walk again. Cooke, of Sangre Grande, was shot in the back while purchasing a CD at a vendor in Curepe on January 17, 2014.
The shooter was identified as a man he had an altercation with four years earlier. In that initial incident, Cooke said he had lent his $5,000 gold chain to a female friend because she wanted to wear it to a boat cruise.
He said after the boat party, the woman while returning the chain was approached by the man who snatched it from her neck. Cooke said he knew the man as a well-known hustler from the Port-of-Spain area and subsequently confronted him and during a fight he retrieved the chain.
“I beat him up a little bit,” Cooke said. Nearing four years after the fracas, Cooke said, the chain snatcher came back for revenge and shot him in his back and stole the chain from around his neck. “I saw the man as I was walking towards a CD vendor. I did not make nothing of it. But while I was making the purchase I saw the vendor who was standing in front of me looking behind me and then he suddenly ducked.”
By the time Cooke turned around to see what was taking place he had already been shot and the chain was being yanked from his neck.
“The gun jammed. One of his (gunman’s) partners then grabbed the gun from him and I heard him say shoot him in the head. I said, Lord, Father, if I dead here today remember me in Paradise. I said that four times, just like the thief on the cross next to Jesus,” Cooke said.
Cooke was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope where he underwent surgery and warded for two weeks. While in the hospital he was only visited once by officers of the St Joseph Police Station who took a statement, but he has never heard from them again.
“I don’t ever think I will get justice,” Cooke said. The suspect was never arrested. Cooke said he was told by doctors that the bullet which missed his heart by two inches, travelled downwards, broke three of his ribs and punctured his lungs before it lodged itself between the kidney and liver. His spine was also damaged.
“The bullet is still lodged in me,” Cooke said. He said doctors told him if they had removed the bullet he could have bled to death.
Cooke who worked as a delivery driver is now confined to a bed and wears a catheter. He has also been nursing a three-inch-deep bedsore on his right buttock for the past two months.
“I am now a prisoner in my home because of my paralysis. I am not giving up hope. I have feelings in the legs because if I drinking something cold and I put it on my legs I would feel the coldness.”
Cooke’s father Steve Cooke has been his caregiver and pillar of strength.
“It’s a full time job just seeing about him every day…changing his bandages and cooking his vegetarian meals. I never expected this to happen to my son. From a healthy robust man Mark has dwindled to nothing. It pains my heart to see him in this condition,” Steve said, as he tried hard to contain his emotions.
The elder Cooke said in the blink of an eye his son’s life changed.
“People taking your belongings and then shooting and killing you for it. That is the stage we reach now. I have to thank God Mark did not die as a result of the bullet wound.”
Though Cooke receives an $1,800 a month disability grant, Steve said it was barely enough to cover his medication, toiletries and meals. Though bedridden, Cooke said he was still thankful for life.
“As I get up on mornings I does reach for my Bible and read. I live through the inspiration of Prophet Jeremiah and the teachings in the book of Revelations. I am a Seventh Day Adventist and my greatest wish is to be in Heaven and in seeking the Lord right now I believe that I will walk again,” Cooke said.
“God does also bless and He could heal me through a doctor because He works in mysterious ways. But, I have to help myself too,” he said.
Cooke said he would like Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to look into his matter.
“If there is anything the minister can do to help me I would appreciate it. I am not asking for sympathy or pity. I just want a second medical opinion.”
Last Thursday, Cooke had to be admitted on Ward 6 at the Sangre Grande Hospital after he developed an infection as a result of the catheter, which led to a high fever and vomiting.
“I could have died if I was not taken to the hospital on time. The doctors told me this morning that the bacteria in my body is travelling. This has me worried to no end. But by my faith I shall be healed.”
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