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Coast Guard officer killed eena Martin’s

HeadlineCoast Guard officer killed eena Martin’s

Photo: Charles James, deceased

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 11, 2024

A member of the Belize Coast Guard, identified as 26-year-old Charles James of Belize City, was slain last night, Wednesday, April 10, at a residence on Consuelo Street in the St. Martin De Porres area of Belize City.

According to reports, around 8:00 p.m. last night, James was inside the home sitting on a sofa when two gunmen entered and fired two gunshots at him, killing him on the spot. The two men then fled the scene.

Following their attempt to escape, the assailants reportedly encountered an off-duty Special Patrol Unit (SPU) officer, who identified himself as an officer of the law. When he did so, the duo pointed their weapons in his direction; and in response, the officer fired shots at them, which resulted in Jaylen Jones, who is believed to be one of the gunmen, sustaining a leg injury.

Jones was transported to the Racoon Street Police Station, where assistance was provided to minimize the severity of his leg injury. The Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, told reporters that the clothing Jones was wearing matched the description of the attire that had been seen on one of the gunmen. Additionally, officers at the scene of the shooting of James had followed the blood trail from the scene and encountered Jones, which has led them to believe that he was one of the triggermen.

“It’s a sad state of affairs for us, because a member of our security force has been killed, and so as police, we are now putting the pieces together and making sure that we put forth the best possible case that we’ll be able to secure a conviction at the end of the day,” said Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, to reporters.

Following the shooting, many videos were posted on social media, particularly by relatives of the detained Jones, who are claiming that officers refused to transport him to the hospital for medical treatment while he waited for the ambulance at the Mahogany Street Police Station. Williams has pointed out, however, that it is not the duty of police officers to transport injured persons to the hospital.

“Let me say, the man’s injuries were not life-threatening. The bleeding had stopped because they had tied it up with something, and the police were just waiting for the ambulance to come and take him. Seeing that the ambulance took too long, the police eventually took him to the hospital,” he said.

Williams further mentioned, “… If you go anywhere in the world, do you see the police take injured people to hospital? No. We’re the only ones who practice that nonsense in Belize. It’s not the proper practice from a medical standpoint, and we are constantly being chastised by the medical practitioners for doing it, and it needs to come to an end. There was a case where the police had transported an injured person to the hospital, and along the way the person died. The family members blamed the police for that, because they said that the police should have left the man to be taken by ambulance so that he could have received treatment along the way to the hospital, which police could not provide [in] a police mobile; so, it is damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

One of the persons who made complaints on social media about the police’s response was the detainee’s mother, who is claiming that her son is innocent.

In reference to her claims, Commissioner Williams said, “The public outcry was because they did not know what the young man did. [After all], they were misled by the mother, who said in the live that the young man was shot while he was passing somewhere, which is bogus. That is not true. He is one of the gunmen who went and killed the Coast Guard and shot at the police. So, had the public had that information, I’m sure the public would not have reacted the way they did.”

Unconfirmed reports are that James had indirect connections to the gangs in his neighborhood through family members of his. Also, his participation in the William Dawson Peace Cup tournament may have led some persons to believe that he was an affiliate of the BLC gang. However, according to Commissioner Williams, James was targeted because of rivalry over a woman, and members of the PIV gang in that area coordinated the assassination.

Amandala spoke to Rear Admiral Elton Bennett, Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, who was unaware of the speculations that James was affiliated with any gang elements, but noted that he had been disciplined before for his behavior. James joined the Belize Coast Guard in 2019, and held the position of seaman apprentice until his death.

“It was a shock to me, as it would be to any member of the Belize Coast Guard, that one of our serving members would have lost his life to gun violence of this nature,” he said.

Notably, James’ murder took place while certain parts of the city were under the State of Emergency (SOE). ComPol Williams explained that, while the area in which the shooting took place was not initially one of the zones in which the SOE had been put into effect, the authorities are seeking to extend the SOE to the St. Martin De Porres area.

“This has now changed that picture, and so, certainly we will have to deal with those persons from the PIV, and they will have to form part of SOE. Again, I am pushing to see if we can have the SOE extended, for the simple fact that we believe that some of these young men have still not gotten the message; and we need more time to be able to properly investigate those persons who are under the SOE, and the one month would not suffice. So, I am seeking to see if we can get it extended for another month,” he outlined.

Bennett noted that the funeral arrangements are being discussed with the Belize Coast Guard and James’ family.

Police are seeking one other person in connection with this murder. Charges have yet to be brought against Jones.

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