It was a sensational story when Corporal #910 Gavin Sanchez allegedly was shot and killed by his superior officer, Sergeant #714 Paulino Reyes, in the police barracks of the San Pedro Police Station on March 18, 2010.
Reyes was under heavy scrutiny, but claimed self-defense; he shot Sanchez 9 times, which seriously raised the issue of necessary force. Necessary or not, Amandala has learned that there will be no legal action taken against Reyes.
Today, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, Director of Public Prosecutions, told us that the reason no legal action is being taken against Reyes is not that the firing of 9 bullets can still be claimed as self-defense in a case that can stand up in court, but because the evidence provided to her by the police is not strong enough to successfully prosecute the case.
She said that the two key reasons are that Sanchez had made many comments about his intention to kill Reyes before his actual shooting death, and the fact that there are no eyewitnesses to the complete shooting incident itself.
As we understand it, based on the statements in the case, Sanchez did have an altercation with a colleague at the Wet Willies Night Club, which resulted in Reyes (who was on “special duty” at the club) intervening.
Sanchez then reportedly threatened to kill Reyes – hence the first reason (stated by Vidal) that it was difficult to prosecute the case.
We also understand that Sanchez was escorted back to the police station, where he continued to openly threaten Reyes, who was not present. He also made a phone call to his commanding officer and sent a text message, both of which stated his intention to kill Reyes.
Vidal explained to us that Sanchez gathered his things, and armed himself and began waiting. Reyes then arrived later and ordered a check of the compound, which led to Sanchez being discovered in hiding. (Reyes had asked to be escorted by two BDF officers to his room in the barracks, which resulted in Sanchez being discovered in an unoccupied room across from Reyes’ room.)
According to Reyes, Sanchez was armed with a piece of metal and a bullet-proof vest. He hit Reyes over the head and Reyes began to bleed extensively and retreated to his room. (There was no indication where the other soldier went at this point. All this occurred in the corridor outside Reyes’ room.)
This caused one of the BDF officers to respond by grabbing Sanchez and trying to subdue him from a backward position.
At this time, the piece of metal was wedged between the door and doorframe, and the soldier purportedly saw Reyes’ door open and Sanchez begin reaching for something by his waist (due to his position the soldier said that he did not see what Sanchez was reaching for).
The soldier said he saw Reyes pull out his gun and fire a shot at Sanchez’s leg.
According to Vidal, the soldier said that he pushed Sanchez away and began running. Sanchez was still standing and what he (the soldier) saw while running away was that Sanchez had a firearm and was pointing it at the sergeant.
Based on these statements, Vidal said that there is strong indication that Reyes thought his life was being threatened and responded accordingly. The soldier did not see the rest of what transpired; no one was able to get to the scene until after the shots were fired.
What about the use of force; was it necessary for Reyes to shoot Sanchez 9 times?
Vidal said that the absence of any eyewitnesses to the entire shooting presents the main difficulty; all that can be used at this time for this part of the case is Reyes’ statement, the crime scene, and the findings of Dr. Estradabran after examining Sanchez’s body. She said that the available evidence is not in favor of the prosecution.
According to the evidence, the firearm that had been in Sanchez’ possession, was found in close proximity to his body, indicating that either he fell with it or, it fell shortly before he did, according to Vidal. This indicated that the firearm was in his hand until he was immobilized by the 8th and 9th shot, up until which he was still standing and still able to physically threaten Reyes.
Vidal said that Dr. Estradabran concluded that the first 7 shots were only flesh wounds and would not immobilize Sanchez to the extent that he could no longer be a threat. The bullets all, according to Dr. Estradabran’s report, seemed to miss his vital organs and didn’t cause him any bone fractures. They were all front to back injuries, and there were no defensive injuries present.
Vidal said that given the evidence, the prosecution is unable to reasonably suggest that excessive force was used. As we understand it, there were a few inconsistencies in the evidence, but they weren’t enough to merit a full and proper trial. As it is, she recommended that a coroner’s inquest be undertaken to continue the investigation.
Amandala was also able to speak to Sanchez’s widow, Taralee Sanchez, about the case being at a standstill. She said that the loss of her husband has taken a big toll on her family and her two children (she is also expecting a third soon). She told us that she was disappointed, hurt and angry, when Vidal spoke to her and told her that the case for the prosecution was not strong enough to obtain a conviction.
She said that the aspect of the case that still bothers her is the amount of shots her husband received. Particularly, she said that Vidal told her that the first shot was in the foot. She said that she could remember clearly observing, when the body was first shown to her, that his ankle was broken, and his knee was also broken.
She said that she feels that if someone is shot in both the ankle and the knee, they would fall, which is an inconsistency with the findings that has been ignored.
What bothers her most, said Taralee, is that the results of the coroner’s inquest will not be ready anytime soon, and that Reyes is walking around freely while she and her family mourn the loss without any conclusion.
She said that she has retained the services of attorney Anthony Sylvester, and plans to take the investigation as far as she is able to.
Amandala was not able to contact Sylvester for comment.