BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 10, 2015–A riot erupted on Caye Caulker on Monday night, June 8, when residents learned that a teenager had died hours after he was taken into custody. A crowd, estimated to consist of over 200 persons, descended on the police station and polyclinic where Hilberto Sotz, 18, was pronounced dead.
Caye Caulker police had to call for reinforcements from Belize City, and the officers reportedly fired live rounds to disperse angry residents. The result of Sotz’s autopsy apparently indicated that he had been brutalized to the point where he died of his injuries.
Late this afternoon, one of the court prosecutors at the Belize City Magistrate’s Court told a policeman who was about to close the main door on the Regent Street side of the court building, not to close the door because he was “expecting two prisoners” – who would turn out to be two police officers who have been accused of causing the death of Sotz.
Just before 4:00 p.m., a heavily tinted unmarked police SUV pulled up at the Treasury Lane side of the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, and the two officers, PC Leonard Nunez, 43, and PC Hallet King, 32, who were handcuffed together, emerged.
They spent less than 15 minutes in the court’s holding cell before they were escorted into the courtroom of Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith.
While waiting for the court to begin, the two men appeared calm, as they conversed with each other.
At 3:55 p.m., the Chief Magistrate walked into the courtroom and the arraignment began.
“Listen to the charge,” Smith told PC Nunez and PC King.
Smith read the murder charge to the two and asked the court prosecutor for the next court date.
The prosecutor replied July 14, and Smith told Nunez and King that they were remanded to prison until that date.
Smith then asked the prosecutor for a disclosure date, but he replied that when they returned to court on the adjournment date, a disclosure date would be given.
The allegation against the two policemen, who appeared in court without an attorney, is that on June 8, they caused the unlawful death of Hilberto Sotz.
A post-mortem examination on Sotz revealed that he died from “vascular shock; pronounced massive heart thrombosis; acute heart trauma and cerebral edema.”
The medical terminology appears to indicate that Sotz was likely beaten severely in his chest and head.
The police’s narrative of how Sotz ended up in their custody is that they were investigating a series of burglaries and arrested Sotz, and when he complained of pain in his chest at the station, he was taken to the polyclinic, where he was pronounced dead.