The brother and partner of JR Smith, a retired member of the Canadian military formerly of Mount Pearl, say that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time during the mass shooting at Wabinaha night club in Hopkins Village
by Charles Gladden
HOPKINS, Stann Creek District, Mon. Sept. 26, 2022
The brother and partner of John Roy “JR” Smith, 43, charged for murder jointly with three other men following a mass shooting at Wabinaha night club on Sunday, July 31 that resulted in the deaths of two persons and injuries to ten others, say that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time when the incident occurred. They are currently raising legal funds to prove his innocence.
On the night of the incident, Brian Andrews, 28; Kenyon Moore, 25; and Sherwin Moore, 35, all residents of Sittee River Village, stormed into the establishment with firearms and targeted the man believed to be their intended victim, Noah Moro, 23, a resident of Roaring Creek. During their entry into the club, 56-year-old Honduran national, Emilio Garcia, who was a patron of the club, was killed while attempting to close the club’s door to block the gunfire. The gunmen then, after closing both doors to make it impossible to escape, opened fire indiscriminately inside the Hopkins nightclub.
They reportedly fled the scene after the shooting in a vehicle driven by Smith.
Smith was initially charged with abetment to commit murder, but the charge was upgraded to murder, and he was charged jointly with the Sittee River trio.
In an interview with CTV News, a local television network in Canada, Smith’s partner, Denise Hepburn, claimed Smith was in the wrong place at the wrong time and tried to help get as many people to safety as he could in his vehicle.
“Everybody was pouring out of this one door of this place, and he said ‘I didn’t stick around to see what was happening’. He said ‘I just wanted to get these people out of there’,” Hepburn stated.
She further claimed that Smith was in his pickup truck when the sound of gunshots rang out and a few seconds later a young woman and two young men jumped into his truck.
Hepburn alleges that Smith fears for his safety in Belize’s prison and claims he has been beaten while behind bars.
“He’s been beaten. He’s had a bag, plastic bags, put over his head. He said he almost passed out a couple of times. He had to be taken to the hospital because they kicked him in the stomach so hard, and he just had an emergency appendectomy a couple of weeks before that,” she said.
After Smith retired from the military, he moved to Ontario, Canada, where he operated a cabinetry business that helped other veterans acclimatize to civilian life and gain marketable skills. His business closed earlier this year, and he moved to Belize shortly after and had been living in the country for six months prior to the shooting.
An online fundraising page has been set up to help cover Smith’s legal expenses, and the amount raised so far has surpassed its goal of 10,000 CAD and continues to grow.
Smith is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, November 9.