BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 19, 2021– The hearts of Belizeans were heavy this weekend as events unfolded, and more details emerged, in the aftermath of Laddie Gillett’s tragic death. On Friday, the police officer who allegedly shot the 14-year-old in the back on a Placencia beach was granted bail after being arraigned for a manslaughter charge.
The decision to bring that charge against the officer, rather than a charge of murder, and the fact that the accused is now out on bail has engaged and saddened Belizeans from all walks of life. Groups of livid Belizeans have been gathering.to protest in front of the various police stations across the country, in a desperate effort to have their voices heard, and their call for justice answered.
The biological family of Laddie, who was being raised by a family who adopted him, has also expressed their frustration and sorrow to members of the media and are claiming that they had thought that the teen was in the United States. They made a public appeal to Laddie’s guardian, Emil Bradley, to join them in activities they are engaging in to mourn the loss of the teenager.
On Sunday, the biological family held a demonstration at the Battlefield Park that was organized with the help of local activist Moses Sulph. He urged community organizers to hold peaceful protests across the country in a collective push for the charge against PC Martinez to be upgraded to murder.
The victim’s uncle, Henry Gillett, took the opportunity also, in speaking to reporters, to address what he considered to be inaccuracies that have been reported regarding Laddie’s adoption.
He said, “People nuh know my sista pain at the time weh goh through when ih do weh ih mi do. Nobody feel they pain but you, the doctor, could tell you nothing nuh happen to you and da you di feel. Di doctor nuh feel fi you. So at the end ah the day, nobody feel my sista pain.”
Some critics have suggested that the family may be capitalizing on the passing of their loved one in an effort to secure some type of financial gain. The victim’s uncle responded to their assertions by saying, “My sista could be honest like she be honest on the news; when she did what she did, the persons they offer her some money and ih explain to them no, my son is not for sale. I am doing this because I am in a situation right now, and I want a better life for my son and I want to be a part of his life.”
He shared that they have since been in conversation with Emil Bradley, the guardian, who has apologize to the family for comments that were passed on local media.
He said that his sister was allowed to see her son, Laddie, just once, on his fourth birthday, before he was ostensibly taken to the United States. He outlined that she went to look for him on multiple occasions in Camalote Village, where he lived with his adoptive family.
“So what you mi wa do? If two three time you goh look fi somebody and they tell yo ih deh da States weh u mi wa do? … Yo mi wa nuh show up no more, yo nuh mi wa show up no more. So my sister give up, ih give up and ih always talk bout ih the lee bwai, ih wa see ih son, ih wa ih son see ih rest ah sista, ih next bredda. Ih give up because my sista say the lee bwai well taken care of inna mind, so the lee bwai ok and ih show. Da lee bwai never show ah nothing,” he further said.
Gillett also made reference to an element of racism within our society that might have influenced how Laddie and his friend were perceived, and the level of distrust and aggression displayed toward them.
“I think if da mi two white bwai, the security weh they say do call mi wa turn ih back and nuh call. But you know the problem is, back to the same thing, racist, racist. Miss, we deal with police on a daily basis and I’ll be honest, some of the Hispanic police they tell you straight up, ‘I wa deal with you like I nuh care bout you.’ More than one time,” the victim’s uncle said.
At midday on Saturday, a demonstration was held in front of the Raccoon Street Police Station. A similar protest was staged in Placencia in front of the local police station.
Laddie’s family and the wider public are calling on the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and Police Department to upgrade the charge brought against PC Martinez from manslaughter to murder.