Update info on the Murder of Cassey Auguste
Note: The Haitian Lawyers Leadership has changed the names of the two cousins noted below in the report as a precautionary measure. Any U.S. governmental authorities who wish the appropriate names, for investigating this case, may contact the authors directly. Also this is to also note that a representative of HLL spoke to a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince who was interested in contacting the family of Cassey Auguste. E-mail and phone numbers to the family's spokesperson where immediately given by HLL to the consular officer on June 7 or 8th, 2004. According to an e-mail received today from said consular officer, the U.S. Embassy has tried but has not yet reached Ms. Natasha Michaud.
Action: Please circulate the report below.
A U.S. Photojournalist and a U.S. Lawyer
I am a photojournalist and traveled to Haiti from May 29 to June 4, 2004. I traveled with an immigration/asylum attorney who practices in Philadelphia. We were traveling to Haiti to bring medical and office supplies to a hospice in Port au Prince. Several people who learned we were traveling asked us to look into two different events that happened since President Aristide left the Haiti. Among these people were attorneys from Haiti and the United States; family members of those involved and journalists. We summarize below what we learned about one of these cases, the murder of Cassey Auguste.
Cassey Auguste was a 22 year old American Citizen who was killed at 2:00pm on March 3rd, 2004 in Pont Sonde about two hours north of Port au Prince along highway 1. Mr. Auguste's mother, Paulette Michaud, had lived in Brooklyn, New York but had returned to open a small bar/market in Pont Sonde. Cassey had come to help her in previous summers but this spring, he decided to move to Pont Sonde permanently.
After receiving permission from the family, we traveled to Pont Sonde on Monday, May 31 and interviewed Cassey's two cousins, Tresser Menbagay, "Bagay" age 35, and Dieudonne Luc also age 35, behind the house where the Auguste/Michaud family lived next to the store. His elderly aunt stayed close by us as we talked to the cousins but she was too frightened to speak to us. Both men spoke to us at great personal risk.
Cassey, or "KeKe" as he was known to his friends, and his friend Extanus Lopez were in Cassey's mother's store. The store also served as a bar and disco and was frequented by Lavalas supporters in the area.
According to Menbagay the day before the murders, several cars drove through the town saying, "The next day, we will come and kill." On the day of the murders, cars returned and went to the open market and told people to stay in their seats, "We know who we want." The cars, many with darkened windows drove up to the store, several men armed with weapons got out and went into the store. They dragged Cassey and Extanus out onto the street. Luc Fabien, who knew Cassey and his family very well, got out of one of the cars and shot him. The men's bodies were loaded into the cars. The men immediately washed the blood from the street and the bodies were taken away.
Luc Fabian was known to the Auguste/Michaud family as a customer who frequented the bar often enough to keep a tab there. He had recently joined the Gonaives Resistance Front, a group headed by Guy Phillipe, headquartered in Gonaives. The local leaders of the GRF are known as Butter Metayer and Wynter Tienne ("Ti Will"). The group is violently opposed to Aristide and Lavalas. (see for example, CBS News.com. February 9, 2004 "Violent Uprising Spreads in Haiti").
A neighbor recognized some of the killers and thought he might know where the bodies might have been taken. He found the two bodies of the young men and reported back to the family. Cassey is buried near Pont Sonde in an unmarked tomb.
The cousins did not know why Cassey Auguste and his friend Extanus Lopez were targeted. He had several thoughts. Neither Cassey, Extanus or the Michaud family were active politically. However, the bar was frequented by supporters of Lavalas. They both chose to wear their hair in dreadlocks, which is, to some, a sign of political affiliation with Lavalas. The family also suspects Luc Fabien murdered the two young men to prove his allegiance and value to the Gonaives Resistance Front or as an initiation rite. There is some feeling that Fabien acted without the sanction of those higher up in the organization and in fact, some of the men at the scene told Luc not to shoot Cassey and his friend and apologized to the family.
Additionally, during the February 2 attacks in Gonaives, rebels had come to the local agricultural center attempting to steal cars and tractors stored behind the gates. People from the town defended the property and killed two rebels. It is thought that Luc Fabien, who was a security guard at the agricultural center, was behind the rebel attempt to steal the equipment. The murders of Cassey and Extanus could well have been rebel retaliation for the actions of the townspeople.
Menbagay is not sure why his cousin was killed. He knows that he loved him, and misses him. He and many others would like the killing investigated and the truth to be made public.
This killing is but one of many that have taken place since Aristide was removed from Haiti. We do not diminish the significance and concern for these deaths. However, we call upon the U.S. Embassy to further investigate this murder for the following reasons:
-Cassey Auguste is a United States citizen and his murder in Haiti deserves special attention and consideration by our government. -There has been almost no coverage of this incident in the American Press. We find this extremely troubling in light of the suspicions of many that the United States Government supports the Gonaives Resistance Front and its anti-Lavalas activities. -To our knowledge, the Embassy has not responded to requests from Haitian attorneys or Cassey's family for further investigation of Cassey's murder.
It is for this reason that we bring our concerns to members of Congress and request the United States Embassy investigate Cassey Auguste murder.