The Miami Herald on Sunday reported that Haitian President Jovenel Moise placed frantic calls to the National Police ten minutes before he was gunned down by a commando squad in his home, but neither the police nor the president’s own security detail answered.
According to the Herald, Moise first called the police at 1:34 a.m. on July 7, telling the National Police commissioner that unknown assailants were “shooting by the house” and pleading with him to “mobilize people.”
This call came after eyewitnesses reported at least five minutes of “non-stop automatic gunfire” around the presidential residence. Moise’s wife and two children were in the house as the attack unfolded.
When Moise’s call to the police commissioner didn’t get results, he tried calling a specific police officer of his acquaintance who had received tactical response training.
“Where are you? I need your assistance, now! My life is in danger. Come quick, come save my life,” Moise yelled at this policeman.
Based on the Miami Herald’s interview with the tactical officer, the final moments of this call captured Moise’s death from multiple gunshots. The officer added that he could hear the assailants talking to someone on their own telephones as they “turned the house upside down,” and they murdered Moise after confirming his physical description with the person with whom they were speaking.
As of Sunday, the Miami Herald interviewed three people who took calls from Moise’s house during the assassination. One of them was a member of the presidential security team, whose complete absence during the murder is a lingering mystery. At least seven members of the Presidential Security Unit were reportedly on duty on the night of July 7.
It took about 45 minutes for the attackers to make their way through Moise’s house, locate their target, and complete the assassination. The police commissioner said he made phone calls to his own officers, the director of presidential security, the on-duty supervisor of the president’s bodyguard detail, and the head of the Counter Assault Team that should have responded immediately to an assault on the palace, but somehow the large and very noisy kill team was able to complete its grisly work without meeting significant resistance.
The police chief apparently reached the presidential palace at roughly the same time as the head of the presidential security detail, and they narrowly managed to avoid shooting each other in the dark.
No one seems certain what Dimitri Herard, chief of palace security, was doing while the attackers spent half an hour shooting up Moise’s residence. It was not police or security forces who found the slain president’s body, but his son, who discovered the bullet-riddled corpse while fetching a pair of sandals for the injured First Lady. Investigators currently believe the presidential security detail did not fire a single shot during the attack.
Police and security forces were remarkably reluctant to engage when they encountered the departing commando team. Police officers who spoke to the Miami Herald complained about chaotic leadership and a complete lack of prepared strategy for dealing with the attack.
Herard is one of five senior National Police officers detained for questioning after the assassination, along with at least 20 members of the presidential security detail. None have been charged with a crime yet, but the authorities clearly suspect some of them were not merely incompetent, but actively involved in the assassination plot.
Herard, for example, is under scrutiny because he made several visits to Colombia’s capital of Bogotá during the months before Moise’s murder, and most of the attackers were former Colombian soldiers. The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that some of them received American military training under cooperation programs with Caribbean and Latin American countries.
Colombian police have reportedly speculated that the operation was planned in May and might have been conceived as an effort to kidnap Moise. This would be consistent with remarks by Haitian judge Clement Noel in the wake of the assassination that the attackers wanted to “arrest” Moise under the “mandate of an investigating judge,” presumably because he remained in office much longer than opponents said his term allowed.
Former Haitian Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio became a prime suspect for organizing the attack after Colombian police chief Gen. Jorge Vargas named him on Friday. According to Vargas, Badio told the ringleaders of the Colombian paramilitary squad they needed to “assassinate the president of Haiti” about three days before the attack. One of those leaders was killed in a shootout with police, while the other is in custody.
Vargas said Friday that Badio originally told his Colombian contacts their mission was to “arrest” Moise, but changed his mind at the last minute for unknown reasons.
Other suspected plotters include 63-year-old “Florida-based doctor” Christian Emmanuel Sanon, who allegedly bankrolled the operation and planned to install himself as president after Moise was eliminated, and former Haitian Senator John Joel Joseph, who allegedly provided the weapons and held meetings to plan the assault. Badio and Joseph are currently wanted fugitives, while Sanon has been detained by Haitian authorities. The FBI and Interpol are assisting Haiti with the investigation, along with Colombian police.