According to a police press release, at about 3:10 this morning, a police officer on duty at the San Pedro Police Station heard what sounded like several gunshots from the direction of the Police Barracks.
Upon arrival in the area, he saw Corporal Gavin Sanchez bleeding from the face and feet, apparently dead, and Sergeant Paulino Reyes with a wound to the head.
Initial police investigations revealed that Reyes went to his room after working special duty and there, he was attacked by Sanchez, who hit him on the head with a pipe.
Reyes then tried to close his room door, say police, but noticed that Sanchez had a firearm he was trying to fire.
A Belize Defence soldier then intervened and was struggling with Sanchez. In self-defense, said the police report, Reyes fired a shot which caught Sanchez in the leg.
Sanchez was not subdued, so, in self-defense, Reyes fired more shots and Sanchez went down, dropping a .45 caliber pistol.
Reyes has reportedly handed over his service .9mm pistol to police investigators.
Sanchez, who was married with two children and a third on the way, was pronounced dead by a doctor called to the scene, and the Commissioner of Police has ordered an internal investigation into the incident.
Amandala went to San Pedro today for some answers. Witnesses told us that around the timeline of 12:15 a.m. to 2:15 a.m., Corporal Sanchez was at a function while off-duty, and he was consuming alcohol.
He then went to the Wet Willy’s night club, where he and a female police officer, also off-duty, went to the bar. It is reported that he had at least three more drinks and intervened in a dispute at the club in his capacity as an officer.
Details are sketchy, but it is reported that Sanchez began displaying disorderly conduct, and the ranking officer-in-charge at that time, Paulino Reyes, was asked to get Sanchez under control.
Witnesses say that an argument commenced between the corporal and the sergeant, in which threats were reportedly fired back and forth.
Police said that Sergeant Reyes gave an order to two Belize Defence Force soldiers, who were also on duty, to escort Sanchez to the police station for detention for drunk and disorderly conduct. There seems to have been some confusion in the carrying out of the orders for Sanchez’s detention. He was reportedly taken to the police station, but was not put in a holding cell.
Cpl. Sanchez reportedly then left the police station, which is in the same building as the barracks.
Sgt. Reyes came home to the barracks about an hour later, and reports are that that was when Sanchez returned to the barracks, and attacked him.
At around 2:30 this afternoon, assistant commissioners of police, Miguel Segura, David Henderson, and James Magdaleno held a press conference concerning the death of Corporal Sanchez.
There, they provided information about the findings of the initial investigation. Police said they found nine expended .9mm shells, a .9mm pistol with two live rounds, the .45mm pistol with 5 live rounds and an extra clip, a piece of aluminum which may have been the pipe used to hit Reyes, and one white bullet-proof vest on Sanchez, with an embedded 9mm bullet, all at the crime scene.
They also found a black kitbag under the bow of a boat close to the station, which had in an M-16 magazine containing 30 live rounds, an expended .9mm magazine, a gun holster, a Belizean passport belonging to Corporal Sanchez, four photographs, a letter for vacation leave, 6 live .9mm rounds, and other documents.
Police said that there are two investigations taking place at this time: a criminal investigation and an internal investigation.
It was confirmed by police at the press conference that Reyes was on special duty at the Wet Willy’s night club, so he was able to respond quickly.
There are reports from witnesses that the corporal and the sergeant did not get along very well while both were attached to the San Pedro branch. The reports of disputes between the two were strengthened by a family member; however, police denied this.
Witnesses who wished to remain anonymous told us that Sergeant Reyes was a fair man who did not drink alcohol.
“He always respected the badge and never did things to bring dishonor to the force for as long as I have known him,” said one witness.
On the other hand, a family member spoke to Amandala and said that Corporal Sanchez was a well-mannered and friendly person.
“People who he used to hang out with call him a cool guy to be around,” the family member said.
This family member admitted, however, that Sanchez was a social drinker, and that he had been drinking before the shooting took place.
There is the question of whether or not the force used to take Sanchez down was excessive, because, although Sanchez was wearing a bullet-proof vest, reports are that at least 10 shots were fired and it may have been more.
Meanwhile, Sanchez’s distraught family is asking for a proper investigation, and justice. The loss of Sanchez is made all the worse, because about eight months ago, a relative, an ex-police officer, was killed.
Until the two investigations are concluded, it is not known whether Sgt. Reyes will be charged with anything.