CAYE CAULKER, Belize District, Mon. June 8, 2015–A young Caye Caulker resident, Gilbert Sutz, 17, also known as “Ketchi,” died while in police custody, and villagers are claiming police brutality.
Police reported that Sutz was picked up by Caye Caulker police for investigation for burglary and was charged with burglary, but while in police custody, he was taken to the Caye Caulker Clinic, and died shortly after.
An autopsy will reportedly be conducted on the boy tomorrow at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital to certify the cause of his death, but preliminary reports are that trauma and respiratory problems were the cause of his demise.
Reports to Amandala from witnesses, via text and phone calls, indicate that at about 5:00 this evening, the boy and his father were riding on a golf cart when they were approached by police and the boy was taken away to the Caye Caulker Police Station; by 5:30 – just half an hour later – he was dead at the Caye Caulker Clinic.
Many residents of Caye Caulker are adamant that it was a case of police brutality, and a number of villagers who are angered by the boy’s death gathered in front of the Caye Caulker Police Station to demonstrate.
At about 6:00 this evening, the police station was locked down and reinforcements were brought in from San Pedro and a police riot squad was brought in from Belize City.
An eyewitness reported that the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) had been deployed in Caye Caulker and shots were being fired into the air to discourage people from demonstrating.
The law enforcement presence was intensified at about 8:45 tonight, when a special unit from the Coast Guard reportedly landed on Caye Caulker and joined police in efforts to stifle the unrest that was brewing among demonstrators. They urged people to leave the area around the police station, as more shots were being fired into the air.
Witnesses reported that many warning shots were fired.
The police say that they will conduct an internal investigation into the death, which is a routine response to the death of anyone in police custody.
Villagers who called KREM Radio tonight claimed that the officer who apprehended the boy to investigate his possible involvement in a burglary is known for his brutality, and efforts and requests made numerous times to get him transferred from the village were futile.