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Grenada police charged in death of Toronto man make brief court appearance

Five police officers arrested in connection with the beating death of a Toronto man made a brief court appearance in Grenada Tuesday before the matter was moved to a different jurisdiction and they were sent back to jail.

Grenada Police superintendent Dunbar Belfon says the preliminary inquiry will be heard Friday in St. David's, where the alleged incident took place.

The magistrate this morning did not have the authority really to grant bail, an application was not made because this is not the jurisdiction where the inquiry will be heard," Mr. Belfon said in a telephone interview from Grenada.

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"I suspect the defence lawyer will make an application for bail when they appear on Friday."

The five officers were remanded to Richmond Hill prison until then, as the court in St. George's did not have the authority to grant bail.

Mr. Belfon says he expects any bail motions will be brought Friday.

The officers are charged with manslaughter in the death of 39-year-old Oscar Bartholomew, the man relatives say was beaten into a coma after he hugged a plainclothes policewoman he'd mistaken for a friend last week.

Mr. Belfon would not comment on those allegations, noting the case is now before the court, but says the investigation is being conducted in a fair manner.

Mr. Bartholomew's friends and family have expressed outrage because the officers haven't been charged with murder. During the hearing, hundreds of protesters marched from the courthouse to a nearby police station, demanding that the officers be found guilty.

Mr. Belfon urged people to stay calm and keep an open mind, saying this type of incident is uncommon and police in Grenada have a proven track record.

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"This is a case that is bearing a lot on the emotions of people, but you cannot allow your emotions to determine the outcome of an investigation," he said.

"The director of public prosecution, who handles the file, at the completion of the investigation of the police decided that the appropriate charge would be that of manslaughter."

Two police officers were arrested last week and three more were charged with manslaughter on Sunday.

The suspects are officers Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness, Ruddy Felix, Kenton Hazzard and Wendell Sylvester. If found guilty, they face up to 15 years in jail.

Police haven't said whether more charges are likely, but Mr. Belfon said the investigation was ongoing.

While he couldn't confirm reports that the family was planning a civil suit against the police for Mr. Bartholomew's death, Mr. Belfon said they would be within their rights to bring such an action.

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Mr. Bartholomew lived in Toronto but was in his native Grenada to visit family over the holidays.

His relatives said he had stopped at the police station in St. David's because his wife needed to use the restroom. They said he lifted the officer off the ground in a big hug before realizing she wasn't who he thought she was.

He died of his injuries at a hospital in Grenada the day after he was beaten.

Mr. Bartholomew's family said an independent autopsy found that he died of trauma to the head and multiple injuries to the body. A state autopsy report came to similar but less-detailed conclusions.

Grenada's prime minister has promised a thorough investigation and said there was no reason for tourists to be nervous about visiting the island, which he described as the safest destination in the Caribbean.

A funeral is reportedly being planned in Grenada for Monday.

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