San Pedro man will sue for false imprisonment, after 13 days on remand for “discharging firearm in public”
A San Pedro resident whom police charged with one count of discharging a firearm in public is planning to sue the Police Department for false imprisonment after he spent 13 days in custody and his case was dismissed today, without trial, when he appeared before Magistrate Dale Cayetano.
Byron Evans, 33, was arrested and charged by San Pedro police on Tuesday, June 10, after he allegedly discharged his licensed .38 pistol in a public place.
San Pedro police, after conducting an investigation into the incident, arrested and charged Evans with one count of discharging a firearm within 40 yards of a public place.
Evans reportedly was about to be attacked by two pit bulls, which were roaming free on Tarpon Street. He drew his gun and fired one shot at the approaching dogs. The shot did not hit any of the dogs; neither did it hit anyone.
According to reliable reports from San Pedro, “a dark-skinned man” (a reference to Evans) was riding his bicycle on Tarpon Street, in the vicinity of the San Pedro Airstrip, when two pit bull dogs began to attack him in front of Magic Art Tattoo and Beauty Shop, where the attack was witnessed by the owner of the shop and her two young children.
Evans’ attorney, Oscar Selgado, had made a submission to have the matter withdrawn from his client when it first came up in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court before Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith, on Monday, June 16. At that time Evans had already been in police custody in San Pedro for six days.
The allegation against Evans falls under the Firearms Act, so he was remanded into custody and was supposed to have been brought back to court the following day, June 17.
San Pedro police, however, had failed to forward the case file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for her directive, and as a result, on Monday, June 16, when Evans appeared in court, he was remanded to prison.
The file was not forwarded from the San Pedro police to the DPP until after Evans had been remanded to prison, and the DPP released her directives to San Pedro police on Friday, June 20.
Evans did not reappear in court until today, Monday, June 23, 13 days after he was first arrested.
Selgado said that the length of time — six days — that his client spent in police custody is unacceptable.
“That is a breach of my client’s constitutional rights,” Selgado explained, adding that, “It is also a breach of the law, which says that a person has to be charged and arraigned within 48 hours for any alleged criminal activity. This was not done.”
According to Selgado, Evans lawfully discharged his firearm and was not supposed to have been charged in the first place.
“The only recourse he had to maintain his safety was to discharge his firearm,” Selgado said.
Selgado said that the Firearms Act provides at Section 40 Subsection (a) that it is lawful to discharge a firearm when a person is acting in his own self-defense or the protection of his property.
“The police did not use the discretion afforded to them under the Firearms Act. The police have acted unreasonably,” Selgado said.
Selgado said that on Friday, the DPP had sent out a memorandum to the officer in charge of the San Pedro Police Station, Superintendent Luis Castellanos, advising him that the charge be removed from against Byron Evans.
When the story was first reported, it was said that the dogs that attacked Evans were owned by Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia, Jr. Heredia, however, has since denied that he owned the pit bull dogs that attacked Evans.