Almost two years after Philo Wallace, 17, was allegedly gunned down by an off duty police officer, the chair of the Foundation of Social Concerns says “they are still seeking justice.”
The Foundation of Social Concerns, a nonprofit organization recently merged with another nonprofit called Save SKN, is chaired by Ruth Powell. The group gives crime victims support and responds to the basic needs of a few ex-prisoners. FSC also lobbies existing structures to fight crime in a professional and transparent way.
In October 2015, young Wallace attended a party at Enrique’s night club in Charlestown. It is alleged that an altercation between him and an off duty member of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force identified as Constable Zaviel Jeffers ensued. 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.
Before Jeffers received any charges, the then acting director of public prosecution, Arudranauth Gossai, asked the Magistrate Court to obtain a coroner’s report and conduct an inquest into Wallace’s death. The inquest was to inquire on who died, when they died and how they died. Whether or not to press charges would be left to the director of public prosecution after looking at the evidence, according to the official.
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.
The inquest called more than two dozen witnesses to testify. Magistrate Yasmine Clarke gave her summation of the inquest to a five-member jury, who deliberated for two hours and rendered, 4-1, a justifiable homicide verdict in favor of Jeffers.
Speaking with the Observer on Wednesday, Powell notes that despite the verdict, the “Foundation for Social Concerns maintains that it is not within the purview of the coroner’s inquest to return a verdict of justifiable homicide or verdict of not guilty.”
In speaking with the Observer, she said that she made contact with the current director of public prosecution, Valston Graham, in April 2017, and Graham said that he had reviewed the transcript of the coroner’s inquest and he will get back to her. She said she has not heard anything from him, despite of attempts made by phone and email.
She said that after months of waiting for a response, “We have been very patient, but this has to be kept before the public,” she said.
The Observer also spoke with the father of the slain youth, Hugh “Raffie” Wallace, who applauded FSC on the continued effort to seek justice in his son’s death. “It is very good what they are doing,” he said. “We need the public’s ear.”
He said that the thought of the person accused of “murdering” his son walking around makes him feel bad and sometimes mad.
“He is going along happy; it makes me feel very, very, very, bad, but is the system,” he said. “What can I do? I am still hopeful that justice will come for my son.”
Powell revealed that the organization is current preparing for a second memorial for Philio, two years to the day he died.