Headline — 16 February 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
2 charged for gun dealership burglary

Cops have so far recovered 18 guns and 4,900 rounds of ammo from gun dealer Victor L. Bryant break-in

Citing inadequate storage, Commissioner Williams may revoke seller’s license

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 14, 2019– Between Tuesday and Wednesday, police launched paramilitary-style operations in some known gang neighborhoods in Belize City that resulted in the recovery of a cache of some 18 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition that were stolen from the premises of licensed gun seller Victor L. Bryant, located on Lake Independence Boulevard.

By this morning, Thursday, two men were arraigned in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court and remanded to prison on charges of burglary and possession of unlicensed firearms. A total of a dozen charges were read to Randy Chambers, 21, a carpenter of M & Y Street in Lake Independence, and Selvin Linares, 20, a construction worker of a Police Street address.

The duo appeared before Senior Magistrate Tricia Pitts-Anderson, who arraigned the two on a joint charge of burglary, which occurred on Tuesday, February 12. Court record reveals that the two men entered the business of Victor L. Bryant and made off with an assortment of weapons and ammunition totaling $32,736.

Magistrate Pitts-Anderson went on to read a total of 5 counts of possession of an unlicensed firearm to Chambers and a total of 6 charges to Linares.

Both men pleaded not guilty to all the charges that were read to them. There was no attorney present to represent to the two men, and Magistrate Pitts-Anderson explained to them that she could not release them due to the nature of the firearm offences.

They were remanded to prison until their next court date on April 14.

Court records stated that the men led police to two locations, in Belama and on Ebony Street, in the Lake Independence area, where the weapons were stashed.

Sometime last week between Thursday night and Friday morning burglars gained entry into Victor L. Bryant’s building, but were unsuccessful in stealing the guns and ammunition that were stored in the zinc warehouse type building. Apparently, the same burglars returned yesterday and cleaned out the store’s entire inventory, but rapid police work led to the recovery of most of the stolen weapons and ammunition, with the exception of four weapons, which include two shotguns and two .22 rifles.

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, in a media briefing on the burglary, characterized the incident as “a breach of national security,” and has threatened to revoke the license of Victor L. Bryant, a gun retail store which has been around since the early 20th century and is now owned by the businessman Phillip Gallaty.

“What happened there is a breach of national security. Imagine having these amounts of firearms and ammunitions on the streets of Belize City or anywhere in the country,” Commissioner Williams said.

Senior Superintendent of Police Marco Vidal, who is the police’s Commander of Operations, said several of the stolen weapons were recovered in various parts of the southside of Belize City and in the Belama area.

“So far the police have recovered two .22 revolvers, three .38 revolvers as well, five 12-gauge pump action shotguns and eight .22 rifles.

“Also, in different areas, the police discovered 4,000 9mm rounds, 150 .38 rounds and 750 12-gauge cartridges. The investigation is still ongoing and other areas are being searched at this time. A total of 9 persons are currently detained. One of these persons’ house was searched, where also, drugs were found, I think, just over 4 kilograms of marijuana. So, he will also be charged for that offence,” Superintendent Vidal said.

Vidal also said that police have to do an inventory of the store to determine the exact amount of weapons that are still missing.

The heist has prompted Commissioner Williams to direct Senior Superintendent Andrew Ramirez, who is in charge of the Police’s Dangerous Goods Unit, to begin inspection of licensed gun dealers on a regular basis.

Commissioner Williams explained that Ramirez has been tasked with doing an inventory of Victor L. Bryant “as well as to do an in-depth inspection of the premises to see whether or not the premises is conducive to a place where firearms are supposed to be kept, especially firearms in large quantity.” “So by the end of the day, today, we will be able to know exactly if we have recovered all that is missing,” Williams further said.

Commissioner Williams explained that firearms dealers have a special responsibility.

“When you are a firearm dealer, that responsibility is multiplied tenfold. From what I saw on the scene this morning, the structure that houses Victor L Bryant’s gun dealership is not suitable. The law is that you must have a safe place, basically, a stronghouse to be able to store firearms, especially firearms of the magnitude that Victor L. Bryant had. The fact that the building is just a zinc building and the main entrance door is practically made of plywood, surely the building is not conducive for firearms to be kept and as a result of that, I directed Mr. Ramirez to do a proper inspection, and we have taken into our custody all firearms that were being kept at Victor L. Bryant.

“So, I have tasked Mr. Ramirez to prepare for me his inspection report and based on that, I will be writing Mr. Gallaty to show reasons why his gun dealership license should not be revoked and if satisfactory reasons cannot be given, then his gun dealer license will be revoked. We cannot have people who are supposed to be responsible doing things that will create havoc within our society,” ComPol Williams said.

The burglary at Victor L. Bryant appears to have been a wakeup call for the police to take a serious look at gun dealers in regards to how they store the dangerous goods they market.

“We really have to take a serious look at gun dealers to ensure that they are in compliance with the law as it relates to how firearms or ammunitions are to be kept, and I am sounding the warning now that we would be doing inspections at the other gun dealers to ensure that there is conformity as it relates to how these ammunitions and firearms are to be kept by them before they are sold…” Commissioner Williams added.

Without going into details, Commissioner Williams confirmed that some of the weapons were found in the Mayflower Street area, in what he described as the “Back a Town area.”

The Commissioner also said on Tuesday, “One of the suspects in the burglary was hiding out in the Queen’s Square area, and the police had to go and flush him out, and he was the one who was found with the drugs that Mr. Vidal spoke of earlier, and also recovered from him was 151, .38 rounds, which were also from the Victor L. Bryant burglary. So again, good work on the part of the police in the Queen’s Square area, as well.”

Police detained a number of persons in connection with their investigation of the Victor L. Bryant burglary, but so far, only two persons have been charged and are still to be arraigned before the court.

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Deshawn Swasey

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