Placencia Peninsula, Stann Creek District. Thurs. July 15, 2021– Last night, a 14-year-old boy who was vacationing in Placencia with his parents was shot and killed by a police officer. The victim, identified as Laddie Gillett, was reportedly running in the direction of Chabil Mar Villas, the hotel at which he and his family were staying, when the shooting occurred.
According to reports, the teen was trying to avoid being caught outdoors during curfew hours and was rushing back to the hotel with another young man when he was shot from behind by officers who were responding to a complaint made by a resort on the peninsula.
In a statement to the media Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams said, “Police received a call from a security guard from a resort that there were some people looking suspicious in the area. Based on that, police responded to the location, and upon arrival, they encountered two or three young men. They saw them running, and in the process of doing so one of the officers fired a single shot and the shot caught one of the individuals who was running. The person who was shot was later identified to be a 14-year-old, a resident of Chaa Creek Lodge in Cayo.”
The boy was reportedly on his way back to the hotel after walking a young lady home when he was fatally wounded by police. He was taken to the Placencia Polyclinic, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
“We have recorded statements from the officers involved, as well as the watchman, and the other young man who was with the deceased. I have directed Professional Standards Branch to conduct both a criminal and an internal investigation in respect to that matter,” said Commissioner of Police Chester Williams following the tragic incident.
The officer who fired the shot is in police custody and is expected to remain in detention until the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) determines whether or not charges should be levied against him.
Social media has been ablaze with criticism of the officer and the Police Department due to the excessive use of force against the minor and the failure on the part of the officers to adhere to the proper protocols during their attempt to detain a person who has now been proven to be innocent. According to Commissioner Williams, he is between a rock and a hard place.
“It is indeed a tough situation, and as I said to my officers, as the Commissioner of Police I find myself between a rock and a hard place, because while I do understand those police officers at times in the execution of their duty may become overzealous and go above what would be normally required, I have to also put myself in the position of the parents of the child. I know the parents well; they are good supports of the police. The child came from a good home and is not known to have any criminal history or past, and so it is tough,” Commissioner Williams said.
Williams confirmed that, based on their initial investigation, the shooting was not a justified use of lethal force by the officer. In fact, according to Williams, officers are trained to not shoot at a fleeing suspect.
“He [the victim] was not a suspect, and yes, he was running, but from what we gather, he was not running from the police, so he cannot be regarded even as a fleeing suspect, and so, yes, the use of force would be unjustified,” Williams said.
Williams also noted that the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, has been briefed on the situation and he vowed that the department will “do what needs to be done”.
The name of the officer responsible for the shooting will be released when charges are levied against him, after the DPP has determined what charges, if any, are to be brought against the police officer. According to Commissioner Williams, the mother of the victim told police that the officer in question stood over the child who survived and asked the other officer who was with him,” What will we do with this one?” Williams said that this allegation is also being looked at closely.
If a mens rea (criminal intent) is established, a murder charge will be handed down by the DPP against the officer in question. But, as mentioned by Commissioner Williams, given the fact that the officer was on duty, the Government of Belize might have to compensate the minor’s family for the wrongful death of their loved one.