General — 27 February 2015 — by Albert J. Ciego
Gunman kills toddler sleeping in bed

SAN PEDRITO, San Pedro, Thurs. Feb. 26, 2015 –Charlie Daniel Espat, 2, of San Pedrito, San Pedro, died after being wounded by bullets while lying in bed with his parents at about 1:30 Tuesday morning when gunmen entered the yard of his parents’ home and let loose a barrage of shots at the apartment in which they lived.

The bullets penetrated the wooden door and walls of the apartment and a bullet hit the toddler in the head. His mother, Aleyda Sandoval, 33, was injured in the elbow while trying to protect her baby, who died immediately.

The gunmen fired about 8 to 10 shots at the house, but their apparent target, Rolando Espat, Sr., was unhurt.

Sandoval is in a critical but stable condition at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH); doctors at the KHMH have said that a slug traveled from her left elbow to the area between her shoulder and her back.

Charlie Daniel Espat, on the other hand, was declared dead on arrival at the polyclinic on the island, due to a gunshot wound in the head.

Superintendent Luis Castellanos, Commander of San Pedro Police, said that their investigation revealed that Rolando Espat, Sr., his wife and the baby were sleeping when gunmen attacked the residence. Police officers visited the scene, they saw that the door to the apartment was damaged by about 8 – 10 bullet holes, and they retrieved 5 slugs and 1 expended shell.

Superintendent Castellanos said that they had detained some suspects, who have since been released.

The dead toddler’s devastated father, Rolando Espat, Sr., told reporters that when he was awakened by gunshot explosions, his first reaction was to cover his son, but there were many shots and it all happened quickly. He immediately told his wife to cover the baby, which she did, he said.

After the shooting stopped, he asked his wife if she was okay and she then told him that the baby was not moving, Espat, Sr., related.

He took both of them to the San Pedro Polyclinic, but the doctor there declared the baby dead, while they were at the polyclinic, doctors saw that Sandoval was bleeding and that she, too, had been shot. Doctors immediately began to treat her, after which she was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital for further treatment.

The shooting which resulted in the death of Espat’s two-year-old son was actually the second gun attack to be carried out on the apartment building in which they lived by unknown gunmen. The first attack on the house, by two gunmen, occurred at about 7:30 Wednesday evening, February 11.

As a result, Meredith Escalante, 13, no relative to Espat, who lived with her mom in one of the apartments in the same apartment complex in which Espat lives, was grazed in the chest by one of the many shots that penetrated the wall of her apartment.

Also, on the night of February 9, a house in the vicinity was shot up by unknown gunmen; in that shooting, Kareem Eagan, 32, was shot in the leg.

It was two weeks after the first attack on Espat’s house that the gunmen returned and fired the fatal shots which took little Charlie Daniel Espat’s life.

Espat, Sr., said that he knew that he was the target of the attack, not his son or his wife. He said that he is alive because of a miracle. The Lord is the one who decides and He took away his son’s life, he said.

Rolando Espat, Sr., has lost 6 relatives to violence – four sons, a brother-in-law and a nephew. The body of his brother-in-law Eduardo “Bra Lee” Gutierrez was found with the corpse of James Swan (no relation to Espat) buried in shallow graves in Northern San Pedro in February, 2009.

Then, in June, 2012, Espat’s nephew, Daniel Alamilla, 17, and his son, Charlie Espat, 18, were both found buried in shallow graves in Orange Walk.

Espat’s second son, Byron E and five months ago, in September 2014, Espat’s eldest son, Rolando “Rolito” Espat, Jr., 22, was killed by an unknown gunman in the San Pedrito area of San Pedro. He was only a short distance away from his house when he was shot. Baby Daniel Espat is now Espat, Sr.’s fourth son to have been murdered.

Espat said that he is worried that the gunmen might come back again to attack his house and possibly kill him. He said that he was the intended target and not his innocent son. He is thinking about selling his property on the island and relocating to another part of the country.

In an interview with Amandala, Superintendent Luis Castellanos said that after the attack on Eagan’s house on February 9, police had applied to the court for the go-ahead to remove him from the area, which they believe would have defused the situation. The application was granted, and Eagan no longer lives in the area.

Police are now seeking public assistance to solve this brutal and senseless murder: the killing of an innocent baby while he was sleeping in his bed.

Individuals who have information that can help police are urged to visit the San Pedro Police Station, or call 206-2022.

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