Inspector Carlis Blatch, aide-de-camp to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, was shot around 3 p.m. yesterday as he sat in his vehicle with his daughter on Dolphin Drive, off North Bethel Highway, according to authorities. He died hours later in hospital.
Blatch, 45, was waiting for his son, a student of H.O. Nash Junior High School, to exit the campus, according to Assistant Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander.
He was on duty and “slipped out” to pick up his children.
Fernander said a gunman approached the officer and demanded that he exit the vehicle.
The suspect shot Blatch and dragged him out of his blue Elantra Hyundai.
He then entered the vehicle and drove off.
The officer’s daughter managed to get out of the vehicle and run for help, police said.
Just minutes after Fernander addressed the media, officers rushed to Trelawny Close, off Farrington Road – a few minute’s drive from the scene – where they found Blatch’s vehicle abandoned on the side of the road.
Investigators with the assistance of the K-9 unit searched around the homes of the small community and in bushes adjacent to the vehicle.
Officers also set up a blockade on Farrington Road, stopping some motorists and questioning them as they passed.
Last night, police said they had two men in custody for questioning. The men were found near Blatch’s vehicle but were not believed to be responsible for the shooting.
Still, police believed they might have crucial information in the case.
While Blatch was still in critical condition in hospital, Fernander was hopeful the officer would pull through and asked for the public to pray for him.
“We are asking the Bahamian people just to pray that the good Lord will keep him alive,” he said.
“This is the time that we need to come together and pray for the family as well.
“And you can see our colleagues, we are here in support and we are asking the Bahamian people to do the same.”
Police reported around 6:30 p.m. that the officer died.
It was unclear whether he was carrying his police issued firearm when he was shot.
At the time of the shooting, the area was crowded with students, parents and guardians, Fernander said.
He urged anyone with information on the crime to come forward.
“We believe that some people may have seen exactly what happened,” he said.
“And if they saw that, we are asking them to please come forward to assist in trying to identify this individual.
“He (the suspect) does not need to be out [another] hour.
“We are on a manhunt at this time.
“Everybody is out trying to find this individual and we will find this individual.”
The suspect was described as very young, of dark complexion, slim build and between five feet, five inches and five feet, six inches tall.
A deposit of sand covered the blood in the road at the intersection of Dolphin Drive and the road that connects to North Bethel Highway.
Parents seeking to collect their children from H.O. Nash and the adjacent Stapledon School were rerouted.
Several groups of students exiting the junior high school just a few feet away from the scene had to duck under the caution tape as they made their way to waiting vehicles.
Nearly two dozen investigators and police personnel canvassed the scene.
They were later joined by former Police Staff Association Executive Chairman Dwight Smith.
Police believe armed robbery was the motive for the shooting. Fernander said it was a “crime of opportunity because you can see this area here and around that time (3 p.m.) it’s crowded with people”.
Fernander cautioned the public to continue to be aware of their surroundings even in crowded areas.
“The criminals are getting bolder and bolder every day,” Fernander said.
“That is very bold. That is very bold.
“We will not let up and we will continue to go after these individuals who continue to commit crime in our communities and expect to get away.”
A statement from the Office of the Governor General last night said Dame Marguerite is “deeply saddened by this event, inasmuch as Inspector Blatch worked very closely with her in all state matters.”
“Inspector Blatch has been on the staff of the governor general for the past 14 years, serving with distinction as the officer in charge of protocol, then as ADC to the governor general,” the statement said.
“His service at Government House was marked by his expert understanding of the procedures which attend the affairs at Government House, and as ADC to the governor general. He always took great care to pass on his expertise to other staff, among whom he was highly regarded. His interactions with the public also made him respected and admired.”
Dame Marguerite extended condolences to the officer’s widow, Crystal Blatch and their children, and assured them of her prayers.
There was an outpouring of condolences from others as well.
PSA Executive Chairman Sergeant Sunny Miller said it was a sad day for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, which has lost an “outstanding colleague”.
“We here at the Police Staff Association lost a very good member,” he said.
“We want to let the family know we’ll keep them [in our] prayers…We’ll also pay very close attention to the investigation.”
Miller had a message for the person responsible: “Turn yourself in to the police. Turn yourself in to police because what you did was totally wrong. Just turn yourself in.”
He said he was at the PSA’s office when he received a call about the shooting.
Miller said he dispatched a team to the scene and escorted another team to the hospital where he met with relatives and other senior members of the force.
Asked about Blatch’s family, Miller reserved comment, but said, “Any family who has lost a loved one under these circumstances is truly rough”.
He also said he was in shock, but encouraged officers to “keep their heads up; we have a job to do”.
“Let’s not let this deter us,” Miller said.
“In fact, we should use this as motivation to bring… relief to our very own.”
Blatch received a medal for meritorious service last year.
He was remembered by those who knew him as a man with great promise, who cared for the governor general.
Dame Marguerite’s son, Obi Pindling, said the murder was incredibly sad and senseless.
“This is so hard to come to grips [with],” he wrote on Facebook.
“To say he served the GG well is such a gross understatement.
“He treated her as if she were his own mother.
“He was truly a gem of an individual and will be terribly missed.
“May his soul rest in eternal peace and we pray that the good Lord will strengthen his family at this extremely difficult time.”
In a statement, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said he and the Progressive Liberal Party were devastated.
“We ask ourselves how much sorrow and needless death are we to bear,” said Davis, whose aide was injured in a shooting in 2013 while he was deputy prime minister.
“One of our nation’s finest has been taken from us, a man who had come into his own and with the promise of a great future in front of him, snuffed out for no good reason.
“The meanness of the act of murder in front of his child shows us how low we have sunk.”
He said the governor general has been stripped of an able aide and the nation “bears the scars”.
The PLP leader added, “We mourn with his family tonight. May God give you peace and comfort.”