Headline — 06 August 2013 — by Albert J. Ciego
Big bucks for Buckley!

At about 10:30 this morning on the verandah of the Racoon Street Police Station, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, attorney for Steven Buckley, briefed the media on the proposed settlement by the Government of Belize for injuries sustained to Buckley, who was wrongly shot in the head by police at about 6:30 p.m. on April 29, 2010, while going home after a day of house-construction work.

Bradley had just come out of a meeting with the Acting Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, attorney for the Government of Belize, and the Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, and he told the media that Buckley is seeking $2 million compensation.

As a result of the injuries he suffered from the police’s pump action 12-gauge shotgun on Kraal Road that night, Buckley, 45, of West Street, is incapacitated. Because Government has been excruciatingly slow to address his plight, he has been reduced to seeking assistance from the public and kindhearted individuals so that he and his family can survive.

According to Bradley, while the officer who allegedly shot Buckley, Inspector Dennis Lopez, is facing criminal charges and is presently on Supreme Court bail, with his case coming up in the next sitting of the Supreme Court in October in the court of Justice John “Troadio” Gonzalez, that trial has no bearing on the civil suit aspect of the case, for which Government is awarding compensation without going to court.

Last Friday, during a media brief, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that he would step in because the incident happened two years ago, and he stressed that “we (GoB) must come to terms with compensating the man, who almost lost his life.” There must be justice and fair play, Barrow said, adding that he would look into the matter personally, especially if the officer had been charged. It should only be a matter of agreeing on the level of compensation, with the lawyers saying what quantum of compensation level is justified, said the Prime Minister.

However, on this morning’s KREM WUB show, Buckley said that he was instructed to go to the Racoon Street Police Station without an attorney, and that he would be given $100,000 as a complete settlement.

Buckley, however, did not go alone, and waited for his attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley.

The out-of-court payments will reportedly begin this week, with the first undisclosed amount, reportedly a substantial sum, to be deposited in Buckley’s Holy Redeemer Credit Union account, after which Bradley and the Solicitor General will work out a formula to arrive at a substantial sum as a final and complete payment of the settlement.

Buckley’s demand of $2 million was not accepted, said Bradley, but they will press for the next highest amount.

Bradley said that the Government had agreed to pay the compensation because they accepted that Buckley had been injured as a result of being shot by police, and that there was no sense in delaying the payments until after the court case.

He said that the formula for the final payment will take into account Buckley’s age at the time; he is now permanently disabled and no longer able to work. Also, his expenses incurred, such as taking a taxi to and from the hospital, what he was receiving per day at the time he was working until he reaches 60 when he would have retired, will be considered, said Bradley, who added that they will look at Supreme Court judgments and awards and so arrive at a figure. The process may take a couple of weeks, but Buckley will receive his full settlement, said Bradley.

On the night of April 29, 2010, Buckley was shot by police on mobile patrol in the area of Caesar Ridge Road while he was going home after work constructing a house in the area. Buckley told reporters that as he and two of his fellow workers and friends were travelling on Caesar Ridge Road to Kraal Road, a gold police pickup truck pulled out from Fabers Road, and came straight to the front of their vehicle.

Police ordered them to stop and to turn off the lights of the vehicle, and also to shut off the engine.

Buckley said that the driver did as he was told, and that was when the driver of the police vehicle got out and came to them. He said that as the driver of their vehicle was opening the door to get out of the pickup to see what the police wanted, two shotgun blasts from police rocked the vehicle.

The men were searched, and that was when Buckley realized that he had been shot and was bleeding. He was then taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in a critical state.

In his report, the doctor who attended to him said that if Buckley was not operated on quickly, he would die. After his operation, the surgeon said that there were shotgun pellets in Buckley’s head that could not be removed because of where they were located, and that he would be incapacitated as a result.

For their part, the patrol commander claimed that the 12-gauge pump action shotgun, which fired the shot that injured Buckley, had discharged accidentally.

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