Crime — 28 March 2014 — by Rowland A. Parks

The men allege that they were badly beaten by police

Five men and a 16-year-old minor were arraigned on Tuesday morning before Magistrate Dale Cayetano on a single count of drug trafficking, for 104.5 grams of cannabis that the police department’s Quick Response Team (QRT) allegedly found inside a yard in Ladyville on Sunday.

A contingent of about 15 QRT officers staged the raid on the house, between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m.

But apart from pleading not guilty to the drug trafficking charge, the men are alleging that police brutalized them.

The accused men are Ladyville residents John Fuller, Sr., 41, an employee of Transparent BPO; Alfred Smith, 39, a driver; San Jay Rudon, 32; Ruben Depaz, 27, an unemployed; Errol Andrews, 26, a laborer of Belize City, and the minor.

Two of the men who are claiming police brutality, Fuller and Andrews, could hardly walk from the court’s holding cell to Magistrate Cayetano’s courtroom without assistance when they were first brought to court Monday afternoon.

The magistrate inquired what had happened to them, and they replied, “Police beat us up last night.”

The six accused persons, however, could not be arraigned on Monday, and had to spend another night in police lockdown at the Queen Street Police Station, because no guardian had turned up to take responsibility for the minor, who nonetheless, was detained and charged by police in the absence of adult representation.

At their arraignment today, Tuesday, Magistrate Cayetano expressed concern about the minor, who appears to not be enrolled in school. And since a guardian did not appear, the social services worker was placed in a supervisory position over the minor while the young man is subjected to the processes of the criminal justice system.

The sixteen-year-old boy told the court that he lives with his grandmother, whom he helps to support from his earnings as a construction worker.

Cayetano ordered the social worker to investigate the circumstances of the minor and try to locate his parents or close relatives.

The 104.5 grams of cannabis was allegedly found in a yard on Pigeon Street, and all the accused persons were inside the house, located in the same yard. According to police, the occupants of the house were not aware that police had surrounded the house and someone from inside the house tossed out a bag with the cannabis, hitting a police officer in the face.

After posting bail, Andrews told Amandala that he was visiting friends in Ladyville on Sunday, but “I don’t know nothing about no weed,” he asserted.

“Then the police came and just began to bruk us up,” said Andrews.

“It was dark and nobody saw what they were doing to us,” he explained.

Andrews said the police made them lie on the verandah and began beating them with batons, a bat, and correction rods. “One of the officers was using an ax handle, and they also used taser guns on us,” Andrews alleged.

Andrews, who is yet to file a report with the police’s Internal Affairs Department, said he and his friends are planning to bring legal action against the Police Department.

He was given a police medico-legal form and a doctor classified the injuries he suffered as wounding.

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