Three gunmen had menaced the Chinese businessman, his wife and daughter
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 14, 2019– Police had their hands full last night when around 9 p.m., they received word of a burglary on Mahogany Street at 7 Days Shop. What started off as a burglary, though, soon turned into a hostage situation.
According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, when officers, including him, arrived on the scene, they surrounded the building and learned that the burglars were in the building holding the store’s proprietors hostage.
Initial media reports had indicated that the three burglars, one of whom was armed, jumped over the store’s cement fence to gain entry into the building. Once they were inside the store, they beat up the Asian couple, who were the proprietors.
Williams said that about 10 minutes after he arrived on the scene, the Asian couple, whom he identified only as Mr. and Mrs. Lang (he did not give their ages), rushed outside the building. They had severe injuries to their faces and were bleeding. Their mouths had also been duct-taped, but their hands were not tied.
Williams did not say why the couple had not removed the tape, but it could be assumed that the terrified couple was just trying to escape before the burglars could further harm them.
There is no information at this time as to why the gunmen decided to free the couple.
Williams said that the officers took the couple out of harm’s way and then they told the police that their 16-year-old daughter was still inside the building.
While police were standing on the street as they tried to figure out a way into the building, one of the burglars stepped out on the upstairs verandah and fired twice at police, who had to take cover behind nearby buildings and behind their vehicles.
Williams then said that about two hours after police arrived on the scene, he learned the names of the three burglars, whom he identified as Richard O’Neal, Steven Bernard, and Wayne Welch. Although Williams did not specify the men’s ages, it was reported that all three men are in their mid-twenties, and they are residents of the Tibruce and Jasmine Streets area. They are known to police.
After learning the names of these men, Williams made a call to one of them, and after about 20 minutes of careful negotiation, the men agreed to surrender. He directed the men to go on the verandah, which has burglar bars, so that the officers could see them.
The officers then entered the building and apprehended the men. The daughter of the Asian couple was found in a room, unharmed.
When the officers searched the verandah, they found a bag with $670. They did not find the firearm, a 9mm pistol, until the following day when they went back to search the house and surrounding area. It was found somewhere in the house.
In a live broadcast from KREM News, the police were seen taking the men in and out of the building several times after they had been handcuffed. They also took the men to an adjacent street, presumably to aid in the search for the firearm.
When the men were taken into the building the final time, a sound similar to a gunshot was heard, and witnesses said it sounded like a rubber bullet. When the men were being taken out of the building, one of them was limping.
When asked if a gun was fired inside the store, and whether or not it was actually rubber bullets, however, Williams denied that report completely. The men are currently in police custody.
The proprietors of the store were taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, where they are still recovering. President of the Senate, Lee Mark Chang, was called in at the scene to aid with the language barrier between the Asian couple and the police, since the couple speaks mainly Chinese.
In an interview with the media, the new ComPol emphasized that no one was fatally injured in this situation, and the police recovered the stolen money as well as took a firearm off the street, so he commended the officers, including the members of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU), who were present at the scene of the crime.
All this was accomplished, purportedly without the police firing a shot.
Although a hostage situation like this does not happen often in Belize, the officers still handled it very well and were able to safely rescue the minor.