Headline — 27 January 2018 — by Micah Goodin
13 — too many murders for January — which isn’t finished yet!

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 25, 2018– Data collected by Amandala revealed that there have been 13 murders across the country in the first 25 days of the New Year.

Three females and ten males have been murdered. The Belize district tops the list with 8 murders while there were three murders in Toledo, one murder in the Orange Walk District and one in the Cayo District.

The first murder of the year, which happened on Belize City’s northside, took place less than three hours into the first day of the year. Reputed Victoria Street gang boss, Leon Garcia, 29, was walking on Barrack Road when he was attacked by two men. He and another man were both stabbed multiple times. Garcia succumbed to his injuries. Police have made an arrest in this case.

On the night of January 2, there was another murder on Belize City’s northside. The victim, Jermaine Vellos, 37, a Belizean-American visiting from New York, was making his way to a home in Belama when he was ambushed by a lone gunman. He was shot multiple times and died on the scene. Police have made no arrests in connection with this shooting.

There was a lull in the murders until the night of January 13, when Toledo resident, Mario Vernon, 24, was shot dead. Police claim that while fleeing from them in Punta Gorda Town, Vernon turned around and pointed a firearm at them. As a result, they shot him in the head.

Vernon’s family has vehemently denied the police’s version of what transpired. The officer who fired the shot that killed Vernon has since been arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Three days after Vernon was killed, the unthinkable happened in the Orange Walk District. A man visited his mother’s home in Carmelita Village and murdered her. Braulia Pech, 56, was viciously lashed in the head with a crowbar. Her son has been arrested and detained by police.

Another murder was recorded on January 15, this one in San Pedro Town. Alfredo Cowo, 26, was on Barrier Reef Drive, sitting inside a golf cart with his girlfriend, when a gunman walked up to them and opened fire. Cowo died hours after the attack. Police have arrested and charged one man for his murder.

Two days later there was another murder on Belize City’s northside. Quincy Gentle, 28, was on Kelly Street, making his way to his home on Wilson Street, when a man opened fire on him. He was struck in his midsection and died while undergoing medical treatment. Police have made no arrests in connection with his murder.

On Sunday, January 21, two sisters, Cresencia Oh, 19, and Josephine Oh, 17, visited San Jose in the Toledo District for a church service, but they never returned to their home in San Antonio, Toledo. They were both found, chopped to death, on the roadside in San Jose. Police have not yet made any arrests in connection with this incident.

It has been reported that on Tuesday night there were three shooting incidents, in which four men were killed.

Sometime after 5 o’clock, Jaimell Paul Jex, 32, was walking on Crocodile Street in the San Pedrito area of San Pedro town when he and Deon Neal, 32, were ambushed and shot by two gunmen. Jex died on the scene. No one has been charged for his murder.

About three hours later, two murders reportedly occurred in Ladyville village. Casey Lozano, 24, and Marlon Spain, 25, were among a group of men who were socializing on Marage Road when two gunmen emerged. They both were wounded by gunshots and died on the scene. Police have made no arrests in connection with this shooting.

The last murder on Tuesday was recorded in the Cayo District, Roaring Creek. Thomas Henry, 35, was at home when a gunman walked into his yard and opened fire. He reportedly was not the target. Police have made no arrests in connection with this murder either.

The latest murder in the country took place on Belize City’s southside shortly after midday today, Thursday. San Pedro resident, Simon Velasquez, 23, was shot dead on Plues Street. Police have not yet made any arrests.

In a press conference held on Wednesday in Belize City, Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, argued that Vernon’s death did not amount to murder, and so the murder count for the month is 10 or 11. He said that he was doing all he could to counter crime and violence. According to him, the Belize Police Department needs the assistance of the public in combating crime.

When Amandala asked if he was concerned that the public may be of the view that the department is impotent in fighting crime, he disagreed.

“I don’t agree and support your statement because when these incidents occur, we investigate, and where we are able to marshal sufficient evidence, we do arrest and charge people,” he said.

Of the 13 murders so far for this month, police have arrested and charged 6 men in connection with 6 of the cases. This represents an arrest rate of 46.1 per cent. If we removed Mario Vernon as a “murder” victim, the murder count would be 12, making the arrest rate even lower, 41.6 per cent.

Data collected for this month reveals that the murder rate is up when compared to January 2017. Thus far (up to January 25) there have been 13 murders (12 according to the police department), while in January 2017 there were 9 murders.

In January 2016, there were 12 murders.

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