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Coast Guard in big trouble with the law

GeneralCoast Guard in big trouble with the law

Photo: Shakeem Rashaad Richards

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 9, 2023

Tonight, a Belize Coastguard officer who found himself in big trouble with the law remains in custody at the Queen Street Police Station pending possible bail revocation at the High Court as early as tomorrow, Friday, November 10.

24-year-old Shakeem Rashaad Richards was out on bail granted to him by the High Court in the sum of $15,000 in connection with a charge of robbery of the Puma Gas Station on the George Price Highway, when he ran into trouble with the law again.

Richards, who was detained yesterday, Wednesday, November 8, was brought to court today to be arraigned on criminal charges of assaulting two police officers and threatening to shoot one of them at a nightspot on Blue Marlin Drive.

In a video footage captured by a civilian camera which went viral, Richards appears to have assaulted the two police officers. That video footage has since been played numerous times in local newscasts for the last three nights, including tonight.

Richards, who is a resident of Maskall Village, was escorted to the Belize City Magistrate’s Court at around 2:00 o’clock. this afternoon. At 2:15 p.m., Richards, accompanied by his attorney, John Nembhard, was taken before a Senior Magistrate in Court #6. The arraignment process saw a few bits of drama unfold before it came to an end at around 3:28 p.m., when the Senior Magistrate finally read the charges to the accused.

Richards was actually read three charges, but major amendments and objections made the process longer. The charges would also see amendments by the Prosecution, before they were read to him and a plea was taken.

The Senior Magistrate told Richards that the police had lodged 3 criminal charges against him; just after the second charge was read out to him in court, the first being for using threatening words against Cpl. #348, Carlos Poot, and the second for assaulting Cpl. Poot, that’s when the Prosecutor stood up and asked the court permission to make an amendment to the court book.

The Prosecutor said he had just realized that the charges before the court were not properly worded under the appropriate Act of the law to support the charges. The Prosecutor asked the court permission for the charge of using threatening words to be changed from the words allegedly uttered by Richards, which was said to be, “Ah wah kill yuh”, to now say, “Ah wah shoot yuh.”

He also, in his submission to the court, asked permission to have the two counts of assaulting a police officer be changed to aggravated assault of a police officer.

Attorney for Richards, John Nembhard objected to such proceedings occurring, saying: “I am not sure or certain of the reasons for the officer to ask to change from assaulting a police officer to aggravated assault of a police officer; likewise, from ah wah kill yuh to ah wah shoot yuh.” Nembhard expressed that nothing had changed since the incident occurred that led to those changes by the Crown. He also added that it seemed to be malicious prosecution against his client.

The Senior Magistrate of Court #6 overruled his objection and allowed the amendment requested by the Prosecution, stating that she will allow the amendment to have the court book amended so it matches the section of the law, as the Prosecution can do so at any time before closure of their case.

During the one-hour arraignment, the Prosecutor, having been allowed to amend the court book, then asked the court permission to seek time to get details as to a pending case that Richards had, which he wanted the court to take into consideration before the issue of bail could be addressed.

Attorney Nembhard stated that whatever other matter the Prosecutor was referring to, the Prosecution, in his view, had had ample time to prepare for Richards’ arraignment today, and that today was not the day for them to ask for more time to do so.

The Senior Magistrate allowed the matter to be stood down for 10 minutes.

While the allotted time requested by the Prosecutor was allowed, after the break there was no substantial evidence to back the Prosecutor’s claim of a pending matter against Richards; and so, with no objection to bail being offered to him, the Senior Magistrate laid down some stringent conditions.

At the end of all the drama, Richards was read three charges: 2 counts of aggravated assault upon Cpl. #348, Carlos Poot and Cpl. #322, Mario Chin; and one count of using threatening words upon Cpl. #348, Carlos Poot.

Richards pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

At 3:18 p.m., bail was offered to Richards in the sum of $2,000 plus one surety of the same amount, which he was not able to meet in the time frame.

Conditions to Richards’ bail are that, he must surrender all his travel documents before he could access bail; he must not apply for any new travel documents without permission from the court; he is not to leave the country without permission from the court; he is not to contact the virtual complainants (v/cs) or any other prosecution witnesses; he is not to be within 100 yards of the v/c’s except within the confines of the court; he must also report to the Raccoon Street Police Station every Friday, starting Friday, November 10, 2023.

Richards’ bail processing granted to him today by the Lower Court may very well see some delays. Late this evening, he was still unable to post bail, and his mother was told that tomorrow her son will be taken to the High Court. It is being speculated that the Prosecution will try to revoke his High Court bail for the robbery he was charged with at the Lower Court.

Note that he was granted bail through the High Court with conditions to that bail. Note also that Cpl. Carlos Poot is the Prosecutor in Court #3 at the Belize City Magistrate’s Court, while Cpl. Chin used to work from out of the Belize City Magistrate’s ‘Court, as he was the former driver for the New Chief Magistrate.

Shakeem Richards’ robbery case will come before a magistrate in Court #5 at the Belize City Magistrate’s Court on Coney Drive.

In an interview late this evening outside of the Belize City Magistrate’s Court building, Richards’ mother, a Justice of the Peace, Agnes Marcella Thompson explained the frustration and disappointment she was feeling regarding her son’s incident. JP Thompson said she does not condone wrongdoings by anyone, but told us that when she saw the video that went viral, she knew that all that was sent to the media house was not all there was to the incident, that the video was short of the series of events leading up to her son’s action. She asked the Belize Police Department for transparency.

Thompson said her son told her that he had paid to get into the establishment, Long Island Night Club & Bar, and then he was refused entry. Thompson said her son further told her that he wanted to know what the reason was for the refusal, and that’s when he was roughed up by the officers and was disrespected.

She said her son’s version needs to be told, and she is hoping that with the intervention of the COMPOL, the matter will be dealt with expeditiously and fairly.

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