Headline — 21 April 2015 — by Albert J. Ciego
Catamaran captain executed in front of teen niece

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 20, 2015–A weekend of violence has claimed the life of one man, who was one of five persons who were shot in the city between Friday and Saturday nights.

Vern Magdaleno, 35, was fatally shot in the head by an unknown gunman at about 8:30 Friday night while sitting in his car at the corner of Fabers Road and the Central American Boulevard, and he died almost immediately.

Earlier that night, at about 7:30 p.m., Wendy Lambey, 50, and Aaron Munnings, 17, were both shot in Lambey’s house on Jane Usher Boulevard.

Then at about 10:30 Saturday night, Levar Taylor, 35, and a female minor, 14, were shot while walking on Police Street. Taylor was shot in the shoulder and the girl was shot in the leg. They have both been admitted to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) in a stable condition.

The shootings began at about 7:30 Friday night in the southside of the city. Wendy Lambey was in her home with four of her grandchildren, ages 2 years to 6 years old.

Wendy-Lambey

A police report dated April 19, which outlines the shooting incident that led to the wounding of Lambey and Munnings stated, “Lambey was at home watching television with her family members, when she heard several gunshots coming from the direction of her veranda and saw her son, 18, and his friend, Aaron Munnings, 17, being pursued by a man with a handgun who fired at Munnings, causing him to suffer injuries to the jaw and hand, and she suffered gunshot injuries to both legs.”

They were admitted to ward in a stable condition, said the report.

Superintendent of Police Hilberto Romero said today at a press brief at the Queen Street Police Station that Munnings was shot outside and he ran into the house, while the gunman continued to fire at him.

Lambey’s report to Amandala differs substantially, however, from the police’s report.

Lambey, in an interview with Amandala, said that she and Munnings, her 18-year-old son’s friend, were watching TV while three of her grandchildren were playing in the room.

According to Lambey, the wooden door that is the front entrance to the house was closed. Suddenly, a man who was not wearing a mask opened the door and tried to enter the house.

Munnings, who was near the door, tried to keep the door closed, but the man fired a shot at the door, which caused Munnings to let go of the door. The gunman then entered the house and fired about six more shots, hitting Lambey and Munnings.

Aaron-Munings

Lambey said that her husband and daughter were at home at the time, and when the gunman entered the house, she hesitated to run into their rooms, fearing that he would shoot her in her back, and she took cover in the corner of the hall, where he shot her four times in the leg and hand.

Lambey told Amandala that when the gunman began shooting, Munnings quickly grabbed the child, who was sitting on the edge of the sofa, which was near the gunman, and covered her with his body on the floor beside the chair while the other children scrambled for cover.

The shooter, after releasing several shots and hitting Lambey and Munnings, then left the house and disappeared.

Lambey then discovered that she had been shot in both legs and her right hand was injured. She felt pain in her knees and joints.

Munnings was shot in the face and hand and is listed as being in a critical condition at the KHMH, and will undergo an operation today.

Lambey said that after the shooting, the police responded quickly, within minutes. They took her to the KHMH, where she was treated for the gunshot wounds. The wounds were declared flesh wounds, and the bullets had missed her bones.

Lambey is now recovering at her home. She said that she must return to the clinic today and every day for some time, for treatment and fresh dressing.

She says that her family thanks Munnings for his bravery and his presence of mind to protect the baby from almost certain death. Lambey added that she is at a loss as to why the gunman came to her house and attacked them. She said that her innocent grandchildren could have been killed.

She told Amandala that this madness has to stop and something must be done about these senseless shootings. There has not been a shooting in the area for over 10 years, she said, and the area was relatively peaceful until now.

She said that there is a roadblock not far from her house in the Jane Usher Boulevard area, but the policemen manning the area are not vigilant enough.

A neighbor told Amandala that at about 7:30 Friday night, she was in her house watching the local news on television when she heard what sounded like “pop shot” explosions. She said that she heard “pop, then pop, pop, pop,” and two more popping sounds.

She immediately became troubled, and began to wonder why the children were playing with firecrackers in their house that night, when her son ran into the house and told her that a gunman had run into the neighbor’s house and shot them.

They ran to Lambey’s house to check, and that was when Munnings ran out; he was bleeding from the face, and his father, who was at home, rushed him to the hospital.

She said that the police went to the scene about ten minutes later and took Lambey to the KHMH.

The attack is very worrying, she said.

A police investigation into the incident led to a suspect who is now in custody and has been charged today with two counts of attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, and dangerous grievous harm. He will be arraigned on the charges tomorrow at the Belize City Magistrate’s Court.

About an hour after Lambey and Munnings were shot, Vern Magdaleno, a catamaran captain living on Fabers Road, drove up to a Chinese restaurant at the corner of Fabers Road and Central American Boulevard and stopped. In the car at the time along with him, were his girlfriend and his teenage niece.

His girlfriend came out of the car and went into the restaurant to buy food, while he remained in his car. A man then rode up on a bicycle from behind the car, went to the driver’s side, and shot Magdaleno in the left side of the head, killing him almost immediately.

The gunman then rode away into the night. There was confusion as people scrambled for cover in the shop.

Magdaleno’s girlfriend ran to the car and saw him slumped over his steering wheel, and she ran back to the store, where she began to cry, and a store worker called 911.

At the time, a police mobile unit was passing on the boulevard and people in the area, who by that time had gathered around the car, quickly stopped the police.

Police then secured the scene, took Magdaleno out of the car, put him in the pan of the vehicle and took him to the morgue at the KHMH, where he was declared dead on arrival.

In an interview on KREM Radio, his brother, Albert Magdaleno, said that police are looking for someone known to them, because a police mobile unit base was at the junction of Freedom Street – just a bit further down from the location of the shooting, and there are cameras mounted on the van, which overlooks the area, and the police will review the footage that was captured that night.

The grieving brother also said that the shooting of Magdaleno could have been a case of mistaken identity.

He reported that after Vern Magdaleno was shot, Vern’s son, 10, ran to the car (Vern lived near the Chinese shop), where he saw his father dead in the car. He said that that was very devastating and that the image will stay with the boy for a long time.

Police found one expended shell at the scene of the shooting, and no one has yet been arrested for the murder.

Vern Magdaleno is the cousin of well-known former Assistant Commissioner of Police, James Magdaleno, now retired from the department.

The murder of Magdaleno was not the last shooting to take place over the weekend. At about 10:30 Saturday night, Levar Taylor, 34, and a girl, 14, of Police Street, were walking on Police Street, when two men travelling on a motorcycle drove up and one of the men fired several times at Taylor and the teenage girl, then drove away.

Taylor was wounded in the upper shoulder and the girl was injured in her leg. They were rushed to the KHMH, where they admitted to ward in a stable condition, and they are being treated for the gunshot wounds.

Police have not yet arrested anyone, and the motive for the shooting is still unknown.

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