Crime — 13 June 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
San Ignacio cops criminally charged

3 were granted bail, while 1 was remanded to prison

A group of four police officers who are all attached to the San Ignacio Police Formation faced criminal charges today in that municipality after having been implicated by an internal investigation into an incident in which they reportedly used unlawful means of force upon a teenager in Unitedville late last month.

Subsequent to being jointly charged by police for the offence of harm last Friday, June 6, they were all formally arraigned this morning at the San Ignacio Magistrate’s Court in front of Magistrate Narda Morgan, where their charges of harm were read.

After their pleas were taken, three of the officers — Corporal Ricky Valencia, Constable Maxwell Valerio, and Special Constable Ernesto Budna — met bail of $800 each, while the other officer, Constable Jesus Marroquin, was remanded to the Belize Central Prison in Hattieville until their next court date on July 31, 2014.

Marroquin was additionally charged for use of deadly means of harm and attempted murder upon Elston Arnold, 19, who was shot in his back while returning from a wake in Ontario with relatives at about 12:30 a.m. on Monday, May 26, 2014.

Arnold reported that while riding their bicycles along the George Price Highway, he and four of his cousins were stopped and searched by the four officers near a bus stop, which is located about a half a mile from their home in Unitedville.

It was during that search that one of Arnold’s cousins, known only as Calbert, was allegedly assaulted by the four officers, after which Arnold himself was later shot in the back with a 12-gauge pump action shotgun by one of the constables, whose gun, according to police, used non-lethal plastic pellets.

The altercation began after Calbert reportedly had a verbal exchange with the corporal in charge, after which the officers allegedly proceeded to beat him (Calbert).

Arnold explained to the media that he (Arnold) then made an effort to walk away from the scene of the beating; however, one of the officers who was still in the police mobile unit, exited the Mahindra pickup and shot him in the lower left side of the back with the shotgun.

The victims’ family was outraged because they maintained that the young men were unarmed and the incident was unprovoked, and what’s worse, the four officers allegedly drove off after the incident and left the shooting victim and his cousin on the side of the road.

The victims were subsequently rushed to the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan by a Justice of the Peace from the village, where Arnold underwent surgery to remove multiple shotgun pellets from his back.

The teenager has since been discharged from the hospital and is now at home recovering from his injury.

According to Inspector Reymundo Reyes, the Officer in Charge of the San Ignacio Police Station, Arnold’s family also has the option of filing a private lawsuit against the officers.

Reyes also mentioned that the accused officers will be placed on interdiction until the case has concluded.

In September of 2005, PC Jesus Marroquin was accused of shooting and killing mental patient Egbert Gordon Jr., 29, inside a house in the Los Lagos Community.

At the time, Marroquin claimed that Gordon, armed with a gun, barricaded himself inside a home that he (Gordon) had burglarized, but Gordon’s family maintained that it was a case of murder.

Marroquin was eventually charged for the killing; however, the Director of Public Prosecutions eventually withdrew the charge, reportedly because of a lack of evidence.

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