ORANGE WALK TOWN, Mon. Feb. 26, 2018– Outside the Mennonite zinc building that is the Orange Walk Magistrate’s Court, a line of people patiently waited for court police to bring out seven Belize Defence Force soldiers and a policeman who were in the Orange Walk Police Station holding cell to take them before the magistrate for arraignment on murder and attempted murder charge.
Around 11:00 a.m., two court policemen began to escort a line of men who had their faces covered, but as they walked toward the entrance of the zinc building, the crowd erupted, “murderers, murderers, show unno face, show unno face.”
“Look pan dem, they’re not even in handcuffs,” one woman shouted, as the men walked into the court, where the Orange Walk Magistrate Albert Hoare was already seated.
Once inside the court, the men were lined up, with Francis Sho, 23, a soldier and resident of San Martin, Belmopan, being the first accused in the line.
Standing next to Sho was Baldimir Escarraga, 21, a soldier and resident of San Jose, Orange Walk District; next in line was Patrick Francis, Sr., 31, a soldier and resident of Police and Sunflower Streets, Belize City; Elvis Cobb, 33, a soldier and resident of Corozal Town; Patrick Vallagran, 33, a soldier; Lennart Cajun, 33, a police officer and resident of Tower Hill, Orange Walk; Elmer Petillo, 26, a soldier; Patrick Diego, 26, a soldier and resident of Pomona, Stann Creek District; and Mateo Bolon, 28, a soldier and resident of Jalacte, Toledo District.
The men, except for one, reportedly wore masks when they went to Ariel Salazar’s home.
After getting their particulars, Magistrate Hoare proceeded to read to them the first charge of murder of Ariel Salazar, which occurred on Thursday, February 22. Magistrate Hoare, after reading the charge, went down the line of accused men and asked each of them if they understood the charge that he just read to them.
Magistrate Hoare then read the second charge of attempted murder of Oscar Peyres and followed the same procedure of asking each accused if he understood what was read to him. Peyres was beaten so badly that he ended up in the hospital on life support.
Magistrate Hoare explained to the men that murder and attempted murder are indictable offences. He then asked the court prosecutor for an adjournment date, which was given as April 18.
Attorney Marcel Cardona indicated to the court that he is representing Patrick Diego and Patrick Vallagran. The magistrate asked him if he was holding brief for the other two attorneys, Dickie Bradley and BDF attorney Lionel Olivera, who are representing the rest of the accused men. Cardona told the court that he was not holding brief for the other two attorneys, who were not present for the arraignment.
In the wee hours of Thursday, February 22, the eight accused men were doing patrol in Orange Walk Town when a woman reported to them that she had been socializing with some men and one of them had stolen her cell phone.
The patrol then went to the corner of San Antonio Road and Staines Alley, the home of Ariel Salazar, who lives on the upper flat of a two-story building.
After performing a vicious beat-down on four men who were at the house, the soldiers and one policeman brought the men downstairs into the yard, and the beating continued.
Hours later, Salazar succumbed to his injuries at the Northern Regional Hospital, in Orange Walk Town.
In our Friday edition, we headlined our story as “Masked Orange Walk Cops…” We were in error and that should have been, “masked soldiers.”