SAN PEDRO, Thurs. Mar. 10, 2016–A San Pedro bartender, Edwin Ixpatac, 30, died after an alleged beat-down by three policemen while in lockdown at the San Pedro Police Station, San Pedro police say.
Police say that Ixpatac, who was intoxicated, was locked up in a cell for the night after an altercation with police, and that he was not taken to the San Pedro Polyclinic for medical attention after he was beaten. When a check was made on Ixpatac in the morning, however, he was unconscious. He was then rushed to the San Pedro Polyclinic, then to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) in a coma.
Ixpatac was put on life support in the KHMH’s Intensive Care Unit, where he died at about 4:00 Monday morning, less than 3 days after he had been beaten.
A post-mortem conducted on Ixpatac’s body by Dr. Mario Estradabran yesterday morning certified the cause of his death to be blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen.
The Police High Command ordered an immediate investigation into the death and arrested the three police officers and the supervisor who was on duty at the time of the incident, Sergeant Raymond Berry.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Keith Lino, Director of Professional Standards, told the media in a press brief on Tuesday at the Queen Street Police Station, that they had put the sergeant on interdiction because he was the person who was in charge of the police station. Lino said that the disciplinary charges against the officers include prejudice to good order and discipline, and the sergeant will be charged additionally with breach of administrative protocols.
The officers will all be tried by a police tribunal, which has the power to dismiss them with disgrace if they are found guilty of the offenses for which they are charged.
Additionally, the three policemen accused of causing Ixpatac’s death were charged for murder on Monday.
During the police press brief on Tuesday at the Queen Street Police Station, Superintendent Hilberto Romero, Director of Eastern Division Crimes Investigation, announced that the three policemen charged are Constables Reydell Teck, Romelio Logan, and Jahsimir Cob.
Late Tuesday evening, just after 4:00 p.m., an unmarked police pickup pulled up at the Treasury Lane side of the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, and the three officers, who were handcuffed together, emerged from the back seat of the mobile unit.
They spent less than 15 minutes in the court’s holding cell before they were taken into the courtroom of Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith.
At about 4:15 p.m., the Chief Magistrate walked into the courtroom and the arraignment began.
“Listen to the charge,” Smith told Constables Reydell Teck, Romelio Logan, and Jahsimir Cob. Smith read the murder charge to the three officers, telling them that their next court date is May 9. The men were then remanded to prison until May 9.
May 9 is also set as disclosure date for the men, and then they will be given a date for the preliminary inquiry (PI).
During the police press brief held at the Queen Street Police Station on Tuesday afternoon, Superintendent Hilberto Romero reported that around 2:00 Thursday morning, March 3, three policemen went to a wharf near a resort on the south end of San Pedro, where they saw a man apparently struggling to come out of the sea.
Police got the man out of the water and he was identified as Edwin Ixpatac, a bartender at the nearby resort. He was seen to be intoxicated and had sustained injuries from falling against the sea wall.
Superintendent Romero reported that Ixpatac was combative, however, and kicked and struck at the police who were trying to help him, and an altercation ensued. He was subdued and handcuffed and taken to the station.
Superintendent Romero said that when police tried to remove the handcuffs at the station, Ixpatac got into another altercation with the three officers, during which he was subdued, but only one of the handcuffs could have been removed.
Ixpatac was locked away in the cell, but when police checked on him Friday morning, he was unconscious, said Romero. Police claim they quickly took him to the clinic, from where he was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where he later died.
Superintendent Romero said that they immediately launched an investigation into the death and statements were recorded. The video footage of the actions of the officers against Ixpatac in the station was reviewed.
After the post-mortem by Dr. Estrada Bran was completed, police announced that there was sufficient evidence to charge the three officers for murder. They are convinced that the blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen which caused Ixpatac’s death was incurred while he was in police custody.
Romero said, however, that they will not discuss the details of what they saw on the video, because it will form part of evidence in court against the officers and also, the investigation is ongoing.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Dezerie Philips told the media during the press brief that a lot of persons have been hurt by Ixpatac’s death – not only his family and friends, to whom they offer their deepest condolences, but as well, the family of police officers and the community of San Pedro.
The Commanding Officer said that she wants to assure the general public that the Police Department is doing everything to ensure a fair, swift and transparent investigation.
ACP Philips said that they have been in contact with Ixpatac’s family every step of the way, and let them know that there will be no cover-ups.
However, Olga Ixpatac, 28, Edwin’s sister, said that the death of her brother in police custody was horrible, and they will conduct a peaceful demonstration in front of the San Pedro Police Station tomorrow, Friday, after the burial of her brother today, in San Ignacio.
Olga said that the demonstrators will consist of Ixpatac’s relatives and friends, as well as residents of the community of San Pedro, because Edwin was a friendly and easygoing person.
Edwin Ixpatac was the father of a 4-year-old daughter. He is survived by his two sisters, seven brothers, and their father.