by Charles Gladden
CANADA, Mon. May 29, 2023
JR Smith, a Canadian military veteran who was accused of being the getaway driver after the infamous mass shooting that occurred last year at Wabinaha Night Club in Hopkins Village, Stann Creek District, in which two persons were killed and eight received injuries, is planning to sue the Belize Police Department for unjust treatment that he said he endured while in custody.
The incident occurred close to a year ago in the early hours of July 31 during the Hopkins Day weekend festivities. Although Smith is accused of driving the car in which the three shooters fled after the incident, Smith claims that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
All four men were charged with double murder and remanded at the Belize Central Prison; however, Smith was the only one to be released.
Amandala has been following this story keenly since it occurred. Around September of last year, during Smith’s detention in the Belize prison, an online fundraising page was created to cover his legal expenses—with the desired amount being raised in a relatively short period of time,
Recently, Smith was interviewed by CTV, a Canadian news outlet, and he continued to profess his innocence and deny involvement in the crime.
“Anybody that knows me knows I wouldn’t; I’m not somebody that would take part in kids getting shot in a nightclub and, you know, things like that,” he said.
Smith did, however, describe abuse that he claims to have suffered at the hands of police.
“They threw bags over my head to suffocate me. I had 16 cops or so kicking me, kicking the guts out of me, and then they took me past the crime scene where everybody threw beer bottles at me, spitting on me and all this stuff,” he said.
Smith also claims that authorities attempted to extort USD $70,000 from him for his freedom, and said that searches were done at his home in Belize and $80,000, which he had been saving for home renovations, was stolen by the police.
Smith currently is living with his partner in London, Ontario, Canada, where he is seeking to take legal action against the Belize Police Department for unjust treatment.
Smith had relocated to Belize for a fresh start approximately six months before the shooting occurred.