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Gun violence surges in June and July

CrimeGun violence surges in June and July

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 28, 2022 Over recent weeks there has been a surge of gun violence throughout the country of Belize, with a number of those incidents taking place in the Belize District. One of the most notable of these recent incidents was the execution of the former leader of the PIV gang, 49-year-old Darren Banks, who was gunned down and fell into a drain near Saint Martin De Porres Primary School in the Lake Independence area on Monday evening. Within an hour, 43- year-old Kendrick “Devil” Walton was also shot and is still alive to tell the tale of that incident.

While Banks’ murder and the shooting of Walton were a clear-cut indication of their current or past gang affiliation, several other shooting incidents in the city were not necessarily the result of gang rivalry. Tyrone King, 26, was killed earlier this month at his home in the Lake Independence area. Darrell Alvarez, 35, a father of six, was murdered in late June while getting water at a neighborhood pipe, and also in that month, Desmond Budna, 27, was killed while on his way to visit a handicapped friend of his who is confined to a wheelchair.

Belize City isn’t the only municipality in the country in which incidents of gun violence have been taking place. The once quiet community of Dangriga Town is seeing its fair share of murders as well. In early July, 33-year-old Emerson Nunez was gunned down as he was about to enter his home after socializing with friends of his. And within a three- day period over the past week, two men were killed in Dangriga: 38-year-old Ronald Lloyd Gill was stabbed to death in broad daylight by an associate of his during an argument, and 43-year-old Adolpho “San” Nunez was called outside into his yard, where he was executed, as he was preparing to go to bed.

Back in 2020, Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams made the decision to remove the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) from that area and installed the Special Patrol Unit (SPU) headed by ASP Aaron Gamboa. ASP Gamboa is known to be a no- nonsense type of cop, but the upsurge of murders in the area over which he is commander has led some to call into question his fitness for the post.

“He is on vacation. He is entitled to his vacation, and I don’t think that the escalation has [anything] to do with his absence. Certainly, there have been incidents in the Martin’s area when Aaron Gamboa was here, but what I like about him is his ability to mobilize his people and respond adequately to whatever

tensions there might be in the Martin’s area. His absences, at this time, [are] pretty much missed, but he will be back very shortly. In the meantime, his Deputy is holding over, and I commend his Deputy for the good job he is doing at this time,” said Commissioner of Police Chester Williams.

Also of note is that Senior Superintendent Christopher Noble, who was stationed in San Pedro, is now Commanding Officer of the Eastern Division of Belize City—an area where crime and gun violence are prevalent. He is occupying a post previously held by Superintendent of Police Alejandro Cowo.

“He has a wealth of experience and a wealth of knowledge working in Belize City. He knows the streets well and he has that tact in communicating with people, and I think at times it is what we need. Operationally, he is sound. Administratively, he is sound. To bring him to Eastern Division certainly will be a plus for us, and we are hoping that we’re going to reap great benefit from that,” Commissioner Williams said.

In addition to the activity of local gangs, the commanding officers of the Police Department are also dealing with a recent phenomenon—the influx of gang members from other parts of Central America. Reports have been made within the Belama area of Belize City that members of the MS-13, a gang originating in El Salvador, are growing in numbers and terrorizing the residents of that community, with the most recent incident taking place last week.

“We know the tendencies of these gangs from those areas, and their habits are not what we want in Belize. So, yes, we have been on high alert along with the Immigration Department along the borders. Likewise, within our districts and villages, and towns, officers have been on high alert, and we have asked the public to report to us any sighting of person or persons who they may believe are affiliated with these gangs or are gang members from Central America,” said Commissioner Williams.

It is to be noted as well that 13 murders were recorded for June of this year— three more than were recorded in the same month last year. Additionally, there have been 8 murders so far this month —one more than the 7 that were recorded in July of last year. When asked by reporters to comment on the likelihood that 2022 will be one of Belize’s bloodiest years, Commissioner Williams said, “I do not see July as a very deadly month. I do not see what you are referring to as a very deadly month, but I can tell you at this time that we are below ten for the month of July. While our numbers are up, compared to last year and 2020. If we were to compare our numbers this year to 2019, 2018, 2017, and even perhaps 2016, our numbers are down compared to those years. You would know that 2020 was the year when we had one of the lowest murder rates, with one hundred and four and then [in] 2021, last year we had 125. I still believe that we can beat last year’s number, and we’re going to work diligently to do that.”

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