What exactly happened in Wednesday’s attack is still unknown, as is its motive. But Carl Henri Destin, a local district judge responsible for investigating and documenting the crime scene, described the aftermath in detail to CNN.
“The doors were riddled with bullets, the glass was smashed, the doors were smashed, even the locks were destroyed and lay on the ground,” he said.
Inside, up a wide, bloody staircase leading to a bedroom, Destin says he looked through another broken door and saw his president lying on the floor.
“He was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. His shirt was torn and covered with blood. I saw 12 gunshot wounds visible in the president’s body… they smashed his left eye, but both were still open. “
Yet perhaps a sign of the intense local thirst for explanation, even the absence of images breeds conspiracy theories. And in Port-au-Prince, it all adds momentum to a wave of speculation and uncertainty in a city already rocked by rampant criminal violence, economic deprivation and political instability.
What we know and don’t know
Many questions remain unanswered about what exactly happened in the house of the Haitian president on the night of his death.
What we do know is that according to the remaining government – now headed by Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph – Moise’s house was attacked around 1 a.m. He was killed and his wife, First Lady Martine Moise, was injured. She has since been flown to Miami for treatment.
A group of at least 28 people are believed to have committed the murder, including 26 Colombians and two US citizens. So far, 20 of these suspects have been arrested, five are at large and three have been killed.
According to a spokesperson for the acting prime minister’s office, those cars set on fire in the street of Moise’s house belonged to some of the suspects, whom police later confronted in a shooting. The nearest storefront, decorated with a worn banner quoting Psalm 27: 1: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; who am I afraid of? Testifies to a formidable battle with mounds of shattered glass, traces of bullets and trails of blood.
Colombian national police chief General Jorge Vargas said on Friday that 13 retired Colombian military personnel had visited Haiti in recent months and are believed to be implicated in the assassination. But why a group of foreign nationals would attack the Haitian president is still unknown. No statement by suspects in custody has been released and the investigation is far from over.
“There is a brain behind this assassination, and this is what we have to find out,” Election Minister Mathias Pierre told CNN.
It is also unclear how the killers were able to penetrate multiple levels of presidential security, including police checkpoints on the road and Moise’s personal guard. Despite the apparent scale of the attack and signs of widespread gunfire at the president’s home documented by Destin, none of the president’s guards were injured, Haitian election minister Mathias Pierre told CNN.
Destin, who took testimony from witnesses at the scene the next morning, said he was unable to hear first-hand accounts of what happened during the attack itself. When he arrived at the president’s home, the police security station was unmanned and officers without badges or identification badges met him at the entrance, he said.
“I was informed that no one who was there the night of the murder was present… I did not have the opportunity to speak to anyone who was at the scene during the attack,” Destin said.
The investigation is ongoing, and Haiti’s interim government has requested further assistance from the United States and the UN to help dig into the matter.
Senior FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials should travel to Port-au-Prince “as soon as possible” to provide both security and investigative assistance, the press secretary said on Friday. from the White House, Jen Psaki. Colombia is also sending its head of national intelligence to help with the investigation.
What happens after
Further down, there are a myriad of unanswered questions, as to when the president’s funeral will take place, who should succeed him, and even if the country is set to move forward with a much-anticipated election this fall. . Above it all hangs a sense of foreboding, and many streets in Port-au-Prince have been unusually empty.
The assassination heightened fears of further violent outbreaks in the capital, which saw more than 13,000 people displaced from their homes by arson and battles between police and rival gangs in the month of June alone. Haiti’s interim government has now requested that the United States and the United Nations provide troops to provide security at key infrastructure points like ports, airports and oil terminals.
Elections Minister Pierre, who feared he and other senior officials would be targeted when he first learned of Moise’s death, said he still believed he could now be punished for to have pursued the political program of the late president.
“Everyone who is running for office, including myself, knows that we will face danger, and we are aware of the danger of trying to make major changes in the country,” he said.
Moise, 53, was a divisive figure in Haiti, and many opposition and civil society leaders had been calling for his resignation for over a year. His flagship project, which was the subject of a referendum scheduled for September, was a proposal to overhaul the Haitian constitution that would strengthen executive power – a change that critics said would erode democracy, but which Moise said was vital to drive meaningful change in the country.
The question of who should even lead the current government is also overshadowed by contention and doubt. Days before his death, Moise appointed neurosurgeon Ariel Henry as his new prime minister – meaning that between Henry and acting prime minister Joseph there are two potential demands for prime minister. And there is an additional challenger for the leading role: Reuters reports that Senate chief Joseph Lambert was appointed by fellow lawmakers on Friday to assume the interim presidency.
Meanwhile, Destin, the judge, says he receives death threats from Haitians who believe this is all a hoax and that Moise is still alive, somewhere. “They accuse me of being part of the plot – they say the president was not killed – rather he was kidnapped. “
In the current atmosphere, he cannot afford to take such threats lightly, he said. “I have received anonymous calls from people threatening me. As a judge, there isn’t really a security plan to protect me… so I had to go into hiding to protect myself, my family, my wife and my children. ”
CNN’s Stefano Pozzebon contributed reporting.