US Embassy advises its citizens to “stay away”
Citywide panic ruled most of the streets of the old capital for most of Tuesday, January 8, especially in the Queen’s Square and Mesopotamia divisions on the Southside, after it was announced that four massacred bodies had been discovered at about 7:00 in the morning in the upper flat of an apartment at the corner of Dean and Plues Streets.
The murders of the four men, some of whom were known members of the George Street gang, were rendered all the more horrific when it was reported that their throats had been cut, and the bodies had suffered many stab wounds and bore cut marks of torture.
The murders also had international repercussions: after the confrontation between angry relatives and friends of the slain men and the police, the US Embassy almost immediately released a travel advisory which “informs U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Belize of several gang-related homicides that occurred in Belize City on January 7, 2013. While there is no indication that U.S. citizens are targeted or otherwise under direct threat, there is a possibility that retaliatory violence could take place. As a precaution, the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer has advised U.S. Government personnel to avoid travel to Belize City for the time being.”
Almost immediately after the discovery of the butchered bodies, grieving relatives, gang members and friends of the slain men — Leonard “Ghost” Myers, 30; Albert “Long John” Fuentes, 19, of George Street; Anthony Henry Perez, 28, of Plues Street; and Keino Quallo, 40, of Dean and Plues Streets — began blaming the police’s feared Gang Suppression Unit (GSU), who have had a long, antagonistic relationship with the gang.
The reason that they believed the murders to have been the work of the GSU, the aforementioned relatives, gang members and friends said, was because traditionally, gang warfare is conducted with the thunder of bullets, not stealthy, cut-throat murder in the early morning, heard by no one.
The police themselves said that there appeared to have been no forced entry into the apartments.
The bodies of Quallo, Perez and Fuentes were seen in the corridor of the apartments, while Myers was found inside bedroom #9.
Those who saw them said that Myers’s head was almost decapitated, and was only held up by skin, while Perez’s family who saw him said that apart from his neck being slit, there were cuts to his arm and leg.
Fuentes’s uncle said that he saw him lying on his back when he went into the building, that a portion of his throat was missing, and he was holding up his hands as if trying to defend himself.
Reports are that a portion of Quallo’s throat was also missing, and he was found lying on the floor.
The bodies were taken down from the building by police and put into the pan of two police mobile units and taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, where they were declared dead on arrival.
Those who know about such matters told reporters that the apartment was George Street gang’s headquarters, and rival gangs would not dare enter the two-flat concrete building – they would have to shoot their way in. Only the police could have accessed the building without problems, and had the know-how to kill the men in such a fashion, they said.
Amandala went into the apartment building, and saw that indeed, a bloodbath had occurred. There were pools of blood in the hallways leading to the back door, blood leading into the bedroom, and blood on the floor in rooms. There was blood on the bed in room #9. The scene was a gory sight.
We were told by a neighbor that the four bodies were found at about 7:00 that morning by a man who went into the apartment to get his bicycle from Myers, who had borrowed it the previous Monday evening to buy food and had not returned it.
When he went into the building that Tuesday morning, he discovered the bodies and raised the alarm. Neighbors went into the apartment and also saw the men. A policeman who was travelling on a motorcycle on Dean Street was alerted by the commotion and stopped. He went upstairs and saw the men, and he called the police and the ambulance.
Thereafter, a crowd of about 200 residents, friends, and family members converged at the area. They quickly became grief-stricken – some even fainted – filled with horror at the brutal manner in which the four men had been killed.
In addition to the grief, anger grew to become the predominant emotion as more and more people began to believe that the GSU was responsible for the deaths. The crowd grew hostile to the police, who had come to process the scene and take the bodies to the morgue.
The violence escalated when police took away a camera from Marlon York, a resident of the area, who was taking pictures of what was happening. Yorke told Amandala that they arrested him and punched him in the jaw, and tried to slam him to the ground.
When the crowd saw this, they ran down Dean Street to George Street and Basra Street to rescue York from the beating, and they tried to mob the police, and began throwing pint bottles. A bottle narrowly missed the head of a policeman, smashing into the windshield of a car that was parked nearby.
The police secured the area with force: they fired about 30 shots in the air. They consolidated their position in front of the Lands Department on Basra Street, a short distance from where the initial shooting happened, at the junction of George and Basra Streets.
They went down into battle ready format, protecting themselves at all angles. They trained their guns at the rooftops and windows of the surrounding buildings. They held this ground for about 30 minutes before departing. The crowd eventually dispersed with no one being hurt.
After they released the area, police began aggressive mobile patrols in the area of Dean, George, West and Plues Streets.
In the aftermath of the violence, and false reports that a riot was in full swing, businesses in that area of the city began closing their doors in fear of violent and bloody retaliation by the George Street gangs. However, no such thing happened – there was no further violence.
Amandala visited the business areas of Orange Street, Albert Street and East Canal, and businesses were closed.
People in the area spoke to our newspaper, saying that they believed that the GSU killed the men. A neighbor told Amandala that on Monday the GSU was in the building and broke down the doors of the rooms. They believed that the back door was damaged, and they came in through that door during the night and killed the men while they slept.
Another resident told the media that about 3:00 on Tuesday morning, 4 men dressed like GSU went into the house passing through their yard, and shortly after, they heard the sounds of television and radio, which were turned on at a high volume. The men then came out later and left the area.
Myers’ cousin told Amandala that she was watching the KREM WUB Show about 7:30 that Tuesday morning when Mose Hyde, the show’s host, announced the news flash that four men had been found dead in the apartment. She came to see what was happening, and that was when she saw that her cousin, Leonard Myers, was among the victims.
She said that Myers had just come into the city from Manatee Village, and whenever he came into the city from the village, he stayed at the apartment. She was shocked at his cruel death. She said that no one could have gone into the building to kill the men because the building was secured with a good burglar-barred door.
They would only open the door for police, who usually go up there to search for guns and drugs, she said.
Perez’s mother told us that her son usually went to her home every morning about 3:00 to help her prepare food for her business, and to take out the trash on garbage collection day. When he still did not show up about 5:00 that Tuesday morning, she began to get worried, and began to pray.
She told her daughter to go to the house to check on her brother, but the sister hesitated, claiming that four men were up there and that she was a girl and was fearful that she could be raped.
This was about 5:30 a.m. The grieving mother said that about 7:00 a.m. a man came to the house and told the family that Anthony was dead in the apartment.
The sister said that she quickly went to the house, and saw the bodies of the four men. Her brother was lying on the floor by the back door. She said that it was as if though he had opened the door for a person or persons when he was killed.
The family said that Anthony Perez was killed for nothing. He was not involved in gangs or violent activity, they said. He was friendly and got along well with people. He was just living in a room in the apartment. His sister said that Anthony did not hold grudges, was always willing to assist others, and was easily pleased.
Fuentes’ mother said that she was at home when someone came to the house and told them that her son, Albert, was dead. She immediately went to the apartment and saw her son among the four men who were all dead. His throat had been slit.
The grieving mother said that Albert was friendly, and loved his younger brother and sister. She is still in a state of shock, and is devastated.
Neighbors said that Keino’s family was in the United States, but that he lived in the apartment.
The commander of the GSU, Superintendent Marco Vidal, strongly denies that his unit committed the terrible murders. Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the new Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, also strongly rejected the idea that the GSU had participated in apparent massacre.
Whylie said that a team of elite investigators will be assigned to investigate the murders.
In the wake of the incident, Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca called a press conference at Independence Hall, the PUP Headquarters, about 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, where he offered his condolences to the families of the people killed from the beginning of the year, and offered to partner with the government to combat crimes and violence.
Fonseca, by the following day, Wednesday, was asking for an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the mass murders to clear the GSU of allegations of any wrongdoing. Fonseca added that there are very serious elements of crime in the communities, but also living in the areas are decent, hard working citizens who must be protected. He said that they must be reminded that the state is there to help them, and not to antagonize them.
These four murders came on the heels of the first weekend of the New Year, in which three people were shot to death. Three others were also shot; two have since been treated and released from the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, while the other remains in critical condition after he was shot in the head on New Year’s Day.
Those who were killed three days prior to the quadruple murder were Feesha Felix, 22, who was shot while sleeping in her room on Gill Street; Marvin Foreman, 27, who was shot about 13 times while walking on Central American Boulevard; and Marlon Harris, 33, who was shot 6 times in his chest while driving his car on the George Price Highway in front of the Sans Foam Factory at about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 5
To date, eight people have been killed since the beginning of 2013.