Headline — 21 March 2018 — by Albert J. Ciego
Terrible mistake: police beat vendor for what they believed were uncustomed avocados

The police also destroyed $4,000 worth of avocados, only to learn that they were legal

BELIZE CITY, Fri. Mar. 16, 2018– A local market vendor, Tim Cowo, 19, from San Victor, Orange Walk District, who was selling local avocados at the Michael Finnegan Market at about 5:30 yesterday evening, along with his sister, was beaten by police and the avocados they were selling were destroyed, causing them a loss of about $4,000, because the police thought that they were selling contraband avocados at the market.

Some of the avocados were taken to the Customs Department for evaluation by police, but personnel at the department declared that the fruits were not contraband and were legal. The market vendors are now seeking to collect compensation for their destroyed produce and Tim Cowo is seeking compensation for the unnecessary beating he suffered.

Information to us is that the vendor was at his stall when police came and told him that they were taking the six bags of avocados and one bag of “mami” because they were illegal. He told them that they were legal, and that he could go with them to the Customs Department.

Witnesses said, however, that as the police loaded the avocados into the police vehicle, the police also loaded in two boxes of beets, which did not belong to Cowo. He tried to tell them again that the two boxes did not belong to him, and he then refused to go with them, and that was when they began to beat him and kick him, the witnesses said.

Onlookers got angry when they saw the unfair treatment of their fellow market vendor. A video that had gone viral, taken by the witnesses at the time of the incident, showed police beating the vendor. His sister, Maria Cowo, said that he was forced into the police vehicle, where he was again beaten and punched, and at the Racoon Street Police Station, he was again beaten.

Maria said that they have been buying avocados from San Victor, where they are grown, and had never had problems.

After the avocados were declared legal, the vendor was released without charges, but he has made an official report to the Professional Standards Branch (PSB), and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, said that PSB has launched an investigation into the behavior of the officers, because the attitude displayed by the policemen will not be tolerated. The police are seeking to foster a harmonious relationship with the public, and such behavior works against that goal, said Williams. It is expected that they will be dealt with internally.

However, members of the public who saw the mistreatment of the young vendor, Tim, are encouraging him to get an attorney to sue the police for the unwarranted beating and for the destruction of his produce. A Belizean-American from Chicago who saw the video of Tim being beaten and the avocados unnecessarily destroyed by police has offered to reimburse Cowo and his family for their $4,000 loss.

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