BELIZE CITY, Fri. Nov. 27, 2015–In the euphoria following the announcement on election night, November 4, that the incumbent, John Saldivar, the United Democratic Party (UDP) Belmopan candidate, was victorious over the People’s United Party (PUP) challenger Patrick Andrews, one of Saldivar’s supporters fired his licensed .9mm handgun into the air—committing the offense of “discharging a firearm in public,” under the Firearms Amendment Act, which mandates prison time for convicted offenders.
As the incident unfolded, someone videoed it and it went viral on social media. What the video captured was police officers making an arrest that was subsequently aborted. In the video, Sadivar, Minister of National Security in the last administration, was heard ordering the police to “Back off! Back off now!”
The incident was treated to a prime ministerial spin when PM Dean Barrow held his press briefing and reappointed Saldivar as his man for the National Security Ministry. When he was asked about the incident, the PM said that” Saldivar was a civilian” when he told the police to back off. Barrow also said that he accepted Saldivar’s explanation of the incident, that he obstructed justice “because something could have happened due to the crowd of his supporters.” If his supporter had been arrested, he would have mandatorily been sent to prison, according to our firearm laws.
The firearm-discharging supporter, whose name was mentioned in social media but not in the mainstream media because police never charged him, was treated with kid gloves. Belmopan police had confirmed that a letter was written to the Commissioner of Police advising him to cancel the man’s gun license.
Today, Amandala spoke to the Officer in Charge of the Belmopan Police Station, Superintendent Howell Gillett, who told us that Saldivar’s supporter has not been charged for discharging his firearm in public that night.
Gillett said, “We haven’t arrested anybody for that incident.”
Incredibly, even though the video showed the businessman and Saldivar in the midst of dozens of people when the firearm was discharged, Gillett added: “I am told that at the time there was no witness.”
Gillett explained that police could use the video, then noted, “but we don’t know who pulled the trigger.”
If “there was no witness” to the firing of the gun, why then did police relieve this particular businessman of his firearm and send it to the National Forensic Lab to be tested to see how recently the weapon had been fired?
Police then said that also, they were unable to find the shell that the firearm ejected.
“If there is somebody who would come forward and say they saw who pulled the trigger, then that person would be charged,” Gillett said.
He added, “The station manager wrote to all the police officers who were present, asking them to submit a report.”
“We went back to all those individuals [the persons who were present] who pointed out this man, but none of them want to give a statement,” Gillett confirmed.
Gillett also said that the police have not gotten back the firearm from the forensic lab.
“That will not assist your investigation any further,” Amandala pointed out to Gillett. “The only thing that lab report would confirm is that gun was fired recently.”
It therefore appears that the UDP winner in Belmopan, John Saldivar, was bigger than the law on election night, because he told police officers who were doing their duty to “Back off! Back off now!” and cowed by their “Minister of National Security,” who, according to the Prime Minister, was “just a civilian at the time,” they released his law-breaking supporter and looked the other way.
Incidentally, Superintendent Gillett mentioned the same rationale that the Prime Minister used in defense of his officers who allowed a civilian to dissuade them from carrying out their duty to uphold the law, when he said that the situation was dangerous for the police, although he did not explain why.
The message appears to be clear: the firearms act does not apply to persons with political connections.
Gillett can say all that he wants, but he will not be able to arrest that UDP supporter who violated the Firearms Act. That is patently obvious by now.