By Charles Gladden
BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 15, 2022
Stephanie Patten, a 24-year-old woman police constable, was detained on Tuesday, June 14, after a police raid of her Orange Walk home led to the discovery of two handguns, a high-powered rifle, a large stash of ammunition, a small amount of cocaine and crack cocaine, some GSU uniforms, and a bulletproof vest. There were three other persons in the home at the time— one of whom, according to initial media reports, is an individual that has previously been arrested for drug trafficking and armed robbery, as well as an individual whom 7News initially referred to as a “mystery Mexican”. The names of those three men are Joshua Brandon Hall, 24, a Corozal Town resident; Alden Lara, 22, a Belize City resident; and Misael Contreras Varela, who is reportedly a laborer from Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Patten and the three men subsequently appeared in the Magistrare Court in Belize City (where members of the Police Department’s G13 unit were present to ensure heightened security) and were charged for possession of controlled drugs with intent to supply, keeping prohibited ammunition (2 counts), keeping ammunition without a license (2 counts), illicit trafficking of firearms, and possession of unregistered bulletproof vests — a total of seven counts.
Alifah Elrington, who is prosecuting the case, told the court that she would indicate to the court within 14 days whether the matter would be handled summarily or on indictment. Magistrate Tricia Pitts Andersen thus decided not to allow the four detainees to submit a plea, and after the case was adjourned, they were remanded to the Belize Central Prison until August 9, but will have the opportunity to apply for Supreme Court bail.
Patten was represented by attorney Richard “Dickie” Bradley in court, but attorney Leeroy Banner,who is representing the three men, was not present in court for the arraignment.
In reference to the operation which led to the arrest of the four persons, Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams told reporters yesterday, “There was an operation launched in Orange Walk Town by police, and during that operation, the home of a female police officer was searched. That search yielded one M4 Carbine rifle, two nine-millimeter pistols, [and] several .223 rounds of ammunition, as well as several nine-millimeter rounds of ammunition, including some cocaine, [and] some crack cocaine.”
Reports are that the police officers who conducted the operation spotted two bags which contained 200 rounds of ammunition along with magazines and a 9 millimeter pistol upon their entry into the home, amd they went on to discover 13 more rounds of 9 millimeter ammunition when they searched Constable Patten’s room. The three men were in another room, and when police searched that room they found one black Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol with an extended magazine, in which there were twenty-one (21) live rounds. Additionally, they came across another extended magazine, in which there were twenty-seven live rounds and an M-4 carbine rifle with a magazine containing twenty-five (25) live rounds. Finally, in a third room they found three bulletproof vests and several GSU uniforms —a type which is no longer being used by the Police Department.
The prohibited features on the rifles — including the extended magazine on one pistol and a modification on one firearm that converts it into a fully automatic weapon with the push of a button— suggest that they were not being kept for legal purposes, but were part of the arsenal of a criminal operation.
According to Patten’s attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, however, she was in no way associated with any such operation, and the items found in her home were taken there without her awareness or consent.
“What happened is clearly acting on some kind of tip-off, the police actually did a raid at a residence in which they broke down the door, went in and were very successful in finding the various items, including prohibited firearms, about 200 rounds of ammunitions, assorted ammunitions fitting the different firearms that were found — 3 firearms in total. They throw in bulletproof vests; they also claim that they found a small quantity, 9 grams, of crack somewhere in the residence. What this is, is somebody took a large quantity of ammunition and 3 firearms into a property without getting any permission and so on and so forth and everybody that is found in that property, the police have a duty to arrest all of them,” Bradley told a 7News reporter.
Questions are now arising among members of the public, however, about the extent of Patten’s possible involvement in the criminal underworld, since her recent arrest is not the first time she has been detained for a criminal offense. Patten, who according to one local television newscast, is reportedly married to another police officer, was charged in 2018 for physically assaulting a female patron inside a nightclub in Orange Walk Town. Two years later, in 2020, Patten was once again facing criminal charges after she, along with three women and a female minor, was found with 23.4 pounds of marijuana.
One of the other women, however, took sole responsibility for the possession and trafficking of the drugs, and as a result the charges against Patten were dropped. Her association with such persons, however, and her previous run-ins with the law might have been seen as a sufficiently strong indication that she possibly was not fit to serve as a law enforcement officer, but when faced with queries about why Patten had not been removed from the Police Department, Police Commissioner Williams noted that she previously had not been convicted of any drug trafficking charges, but that it is less likely that she will be able to evade prosecution following this most recent bust.
“Well, she was charged, but someone else took the rap, and she got off. In this case, it’s different now. The items are found in her home. I don’t see if someone goes and pleads guilty how she can get off…,” Williams commented.
It appears, however, that a similar attempt was made by one of the three men today to take responsibility for the weapons and drugs found in Patten’s home. However, because Magistrate Tricia Pitta Andersen did not allow the submission of pleas, that person was not allowed to plead guilty. In regard to that attempt to submit a plea, attorney Richard “Dickie” Bradley said, “… One of the persons asked to speak to the magistrate after all the charges have been read and they were already told they were remanded — one of the persons said that ‘I am taking responsibility for the items that were found, but I would like to speak to my attorney, who is not me.’”
Commenting on the possible presence of rogue officers within the Police Department, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams said, “Every day we try our best to keep our officers out of line, and when we find that they step out of line and where we find they have stepped out of line, we do our best to discipline them, and I can tell you again, we are dismissing police officers every day..”