Headline — 12 June 2019 — by Albert J. Ciego
Nestor Vasquez, Jr., dies after beating in police lockdown

Vasquez, who was mentally challenged, brother of 7News’ Jules Vasquez, was severely beaten in a cell by a mental patient who had stabbed a nurse.

BELIZE CITY, Mon. June 10, 2019– Nestor Vasquez, Jr., 60, of Belize City, the brother of media personality Jules Vasquez of 7News Belize, died after he was severely beaten by Colin Francis, 28, who is mentally challenged, while they were in lockdown in a cell in the cell block at the Queen Street Police Station on Wednesday night.

Police reportedly saw the attack in the holding cell on a monitor. It appears that after Vasquez was removed from a cell which he had been sharing with some young detainees and was put in the cell in which Francis was being held, Francis attacked Vasquez, viciously slamming his head against the cement wall of the cell and on the iron bars of the cell door. After a while, police went into the cell and took Vasquez out, but he was already unconscious.

Vasquez was rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, but he died at about 9:40 Saturday night while treatment was being administered to him.

Jules Vasquez said that his brother was mentally challenged, and after he began to display aggressive behaviour, he was taken to the mental health clinic at the Port Loyola Polyclinic, after which he was held for safekeeping at the police station’s cell block.

He was released on Thursday, but on his arrival at 7 News on Albert Street, he again began to display “acute episodes,” and the family called police to come for him and he was taken back and put in the cell.

Jules also told the media that putting his brother in a cell with Francis, who allegedly had just stabbed a nurse at the clinic he attended, was done deliberately by police, because there were other empty cells into which his brother could have been put.

Also, Jules said, the police appeared not to care that his brother was being mercilessly beaten, because they moved “with no urgency.” According to Jules, his brother’s head appeared to have been “disassembled” because of the extensive blood loss and the severe injuries he sustained.

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams said that cell block protocols had been violated, and that a mentally challenged detainee should not have been put in a cell with others.

The officers on cell block duties at the time of the incident were placed on interdiction, with half-pay, and were ordered to be placed on disciplinary charges. The three officers from Precinct 3 are Sergeant Shawn Walton, who was the Executive Duty Officer (EDO) at the station, and Constables Edward Pitterson and Bernard Cayetano.

Williams said that there will be no cover-ups, and the file on the details of the incident would be sent to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for her perusal, and if criminal charges are to be brought against the three policemen, then, so be it. Williams said that a retired senior policeman will be identified and brought in to prosecute the three policemen, and that the complete process must be completed within 4 months. So far a trial date for the three officers has not been set.

The Vasquez family, however, issued a statement condemning the police for the negligence that led to their loved one’s death, and have indicated that they will seek all legal remedies. The family’s attorney, Leslie Mendez, said, “We do not accept that this was merely an act of negligence. Rather, this was a deliberate and sadistic act. The officers were fully aware of the mental health of both detainees, and were fully aware that Colin Francis had demonstrated violent instability, having been recently charged with attempted murder.”

Francis has already been charged for attempted murder, and now, police will bring him to court on charges of murder.

During the Monday press brief held this morning at the Queen Street Police Station, ComPol Williams said that a collaboration must be done with the Ministry of Health for a protocol in the handling of mentally challenged persons when they are detained. He said that a cell will be designated for mentally challenged persons and will be padded.

Jules said that he will always remember his brother as a protector, a warrior and a fighter. He was a daredevil and fearless with motorcycles, Jules said.

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