Vista Del Mar resident Maurice Johnson, 59, spent almost the entire weekend in lockdown in the Ladyville Police Station. He claims that he was the victim of police brutality, having been beaten, he said, by policemen for two of the three days he spent in lockdown.
Johnson, who sustained a broken arm, said he would be visiting the Police Department Internal Affairs to make an official complaint.
Yesterday, Sunday, Amandala spoke with Johnson, who had been released from the Ladyville Police Station the day before. According to him, on Thursday, August 23, he was detained by police at the Vista Del Mar marina in connection with a burglary which he understands occurred at the office of the area representative for Belize Rural Central, Home Affairs Minister Ralph Fonseca, in which two computers were stolen.
He had been picked up, police told him, because someone in Ladyville said that on the Thursday, August 16, he, Johnson, was seen carrying a loaded knapsack and the person thought that he looked suspicious.
Based on that information from the resident, he claimed, police picked him up and brutalized him.
According to Johnson, earlier that Thursday morning he had gone to pick up ice and fuel and had them in a bag, which was probably the bag that the resident had seen.
Johnson said that after being released from lockdown, he was never charged, but the beating he suffered during lockdown caused him to collapse some three blocks away from the police station. He was picked up by a “Good Samaritan,” a woman who saw him fall. She rushed him to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
On that Thursday, sometime around 11:30 a.m., Johnson, who says he hasbeena fisherman all his life, said he was fueling his boat when he noticed four men approaching him in a boat.
Of the four men, three of them were policemen, two in civilian clothes and one in uniform; the other was a resident of the Ladyville area, said Johnson.
The officer in civilian clothes approached him and then he heard when the resident, a man he knew by name, said, “Si ahn deh,” and the officer told him to get in their boat. He complied, and the officers sped off.
Johnson said that on the boat, his hands and feet were tied, then a rope was tied to his foot, and one of the officers threw him overboard, holding on to the rope.
He was thrown in the water and pulled back up a number of times, then the officers took him to an area near Haulover Bridge.
According to Johnson, the officers wanted him to give them information about a number of computers that reportedly were stolen from Fonseca’s office, but he told them he knew nothing of the matter.
The officers then took him out of the boat and into a police vehicle that had come into the area.
Johnson said the only reason why he did not drown was because he was a fisherman and was used to the sea.
It was sometime between 1:30-2:00 p.m. that he was then taken to the Ladyville Police Station and put in a back room.
Johnson alleges that there he was beaten by two policemen for another two hours. One of the officers in civilian clothes handcuffed him to a chair. The officer then placed a piece of PVC pipe into the back part of the chair between the cuffs, and the two officers then began punching him in the chest.
The officer put him back in a detention cell, Johnson said, but while he was being taken there one of the officers kicked him hard in the thigh area.
While in detention cell, Johnson said, he asked the officer to buy some food for him and when he did, the officer refused to give him his change after purchasing two johnny cakes and a juice out of $10.00.
Johnson said that the following morning, Friday, he got up in pain, which he began experiencing from his left hand to his upper shoulder area. He told police that they needed to take him to the hospital.
At first they ignored his request. Later he was told by the officers that they were going to take him to the hospital.
He was then taken out of the cell, but instead of taking him to the hospital, Johnson alleges, the officers took him back into the back room, where he had been before, and beat him a third time.
This time the beating lasted for almost three hours.
Johnson claimed that the officers told him that they had been given $10,000 to get back the missing computers, and if he told them where they were, he was going to be given the cash immediately.
A terrorized Johnson said he could not answer the men about the supposed reward, because he knew nothing about the computers.
Johnson said that during the third beating, the officers lashed him several times in the back with the PVC pipe, applying force with both hands.
After the third beating, Johnson said, the officers were taking him back to the lockdown cell when he saw a female police officer who noticed that he was bleeding from the face.
According to him, the WPC told the policemen that she wanted to see Johnson. In his presence, the WPC asked the officers why they still had him in custody.
About two hours later, the officers released him.
Johnson said that he was never charged with anything, nor did the officers take any statement from him.
Amandala spoke today with deputy Officer in charge of Eastern Division, Chester Williams, who told us that they have had no reports of police brutality from any resident of the Ladyville area. We have also not received any report from police about the break-in at Mr. Fonseca’s office in Ladyville.
Reports have reached us, however, that three minors – two 17-year-olds and one 15-year-old – were held by police in connection with the break-in. All of them were let go, but police reportedly beat all of them before releasing them.
Only the 17-year-old was charged with burglary.