7 News Belize

7 News Belize HeadlinesMonday, January 15, 2018

PG Town Up In Arms After Leela’s Grandson Killed By Cop
Tonight, Punta Gorda Town continues to reel after police shot and killed a man under questionable circumstances. He's 24 year-old Mario Vernon the Third, and he has a brand name...
21 Year Old Female Found Dead In Room, But Police Say No Foul Play
And there is another death investigation in the Toledo District - and it's for a 21 year old woman who was found dead in the room she was renting. Police told us the little they know about ...
Three Way Motorcycle Collision Leads To Single Fatality
One man was killed in a three way motorbike collision last night on the Western Highway. It happened at around 7:30 near the Westar Truck Stop and Convenience Store between miles 56 and 5...
Policeman Dies 8 Days After Accident
Police officer Enid Tillett was knocked down on January 6th. The constable was on a patrol bike when 24 year old Jesus Enrique Munoz knocked him down in a Ford Escape. Well, Tillett ...
Alleged Killer From Rival Gang Charged
Leon Garcia was fatally stabbed on New Year's morning by a killer who ambushed him on his way home. Police know that it was a murder motivated by gang rivalry between Victoria Street an...
PSU Past President and Trustee Jackie Willoughby Resigns in Exasperation
Tensions continue to beleaguer the Public Service Union, and tonight the news is about the abrupt resignation of a high profile trustee. Jackie Willoughby - who's been with the PSU fo...
House Meeting This Friday….NOT!
Seems the media got it wrong when it reported on that House Meeting planned for this coming Friday. We said it would be for the vote on the 90 million dollars for the Belize Bank - bu...
Shooting On Armadillo Street
It could have been murder, but luckily it wasn't when two males - one of them only 15 - were shot last night while hanging out on Armadillo Street. One of the men was shot in the fa...
Cran Street Jacking Nets Big Payday for Thieves
This morning on Cran Street a Chinese businessman was robbed of over $60,000 dollars in cash and cheques while in his car. The police shared the few details they had with us. ASP Alejan...
More Cran Street Craziness
And that same Can Street was the scene of a shooting on Friday night. Friday night in Belize City started off with a shooting on Cran Street. The victim was Kareem Williams. His injuries we...
5 Men and A Gun
A group of young men were taken to court today after police stopped them in a van where a gun was hidden inside. Police on patrol saw a minivan driving without lights at 11:00 a...
57 Year Old Man Accused Molesting 2 Year Old Child
Today a 57 year old was charged for molesting a two year old baby girl. It allegedly happened on January 2nd. The child's mother reported to police that she was in her house and looked...
Pregnant Woman Under Police Guard Accused of Social Security Shadiness
Tonight a Santa Elena man is spending another night without his pregnant wife after she was charged and detained. 26 year old Wendy Castro went to the Social Security office in San Ignac...
CARICOM Scolds Pres. Trump
US President Donald Trump has been quoted describing a number of developing nations in very crude language. One of those countries is Haiti, and, on Saturday, CARICOM sprung to its defence....
Agric, Let's Get Growing
The dates for the 2018 National Agriculture and Trade Show have been set. This year, the biggest fair in Belize will be held on April 27, 28 and 29. The theme for this year's fair is : "...
What’s The story of The Shotgun?
Belmopan police believe a shotgun may give them an insight into cracking open a case. Yesterday at around 3:30, Belmopan police were following up on a story which led them to a wooded are...
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7 News Belize - News:
Important Note: This Internet version of 7 News is a verbatum transcript of our evening television news script. Many interviews on our newscast are conducted in Creole. In the interest of clarity for our foreign readers, we attempt to paraphrase the Creole quotes in English

PG Town Up In Arms After Leela’s Grandson Killed By Cop

Tonight, Punta Gorda Town continues to reel after police shot and killed a man under questionable circumstances.

He's 24 year-old Mario Vernon the Third, and he has a brand name as the grandson of the late Belizean Brukdown Queen, Leela Vernon.

Now, the fatal shooting is under heavy scrutiny because of 3 elements. First, Mario Vernon had many run-ins with the police. His friends and family tell us that he was always being accused of some sort of petty crime.

The next element is that even if he was guilty of a crime, the residents are incensed because from their perspective, the cops should not be allowed to play judge, jury and executioner. Next, police say that he was found with a weapon, while his friends and family allege a conspiracy and a police cover up. Our news Team was in PG today, and Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
24 year-old Mario Vernon the third, the man who police shot and killed on Saturday night in PG, was the grandson of the late Creole Belizean icon, Leela Vernon.

Franz Vernon Sr. - Uncle of the Deceased
"He was staying here at my residence, at Miss Leela Vernon's residence. And everybody knows Ms. Leela Vernon. She's the National Hero of Belize, a member of the British Empire. So, I controlled this yard right here, and I had my nephew here with me. We were living here together on everything. And I advised him, like I said, and I tried to talk to him."

And the reason that Franz Vernon was trying to advise him is that Mario Vernon, his deceased nephew, kept bringing police attention to Leela Vernon's property which has been turned into a museum in her honor.

Franz Vernon freely acknowledged that his nephew was in and out of police custody.

Franz Vernon Sr. - Uncle of the Deceased
"My nephew, he was no angel, the man was in and out. Police was already having to deal with him because I talked to him. He's my nephew, and I tried my best to advise him, and talk to him because I have sons who are as old as he."

"You have the man; keep him and lock him up, or charge the man. You don't have to come and kill the man like that."

A cold-blooded killing, that's how Mario Vernon's friends and family see his fatal shooting which happened at around 9:30 on Friday night. We'll get to their account, but first, we start with the official police explanation of what happened.

ACP Joseph Myvette - OC, NCIB
"Whilst police were on patrol on George Price Street, Punta Gorda Town, they observed one Mario Vernon with what appears to be a firearm in his hand. Upon seeing the police, he started moving away, and they police then drove off and on to Main Middle Street, Punta Gorda Town, in the direction where Vernon was going. According to the police officer, he then exited the police vehicle upon seeing Mr. Vernon, and at the time of him seeing Mr. Vernon, he noticed Mr. Vernon walking away from him, and pointing a firearm toward him. And as a result, he drew his service revolver, and fired one shot."

Our investigation on the ground all day in PG has fleshed out a story which contradicts all major elements of this officer's account to his police bosses.

Multiple sources in the town told us that the officer who shot Mario Vernon got into some confrontation with him a couple hours prior to the fatal shooting. There were reportedly some hard words uttered, and Vernon went along his way. The officer supposedly came looking for him at his friend's house on George Price Street, the same area where he was shot.

A short while after Vernon arrived in the neighborhood, the same police officer returned, and supposedly they spotted him walking into this yard. The police mobile went on the adjacent street, and Vernon was seen in this yard, sitting in the dark. It was believed that he was rolling up a stick of weed which he was about to smoke, but the officer reportedly came from behind and shouted at him to "freeze".

He was reportedly seen standing up with his hands in the air, and before he could turn around, the officer shot him in the back of the head.

Franz Vernon Sr.
"The way how he was shot and killed, he never deserved that kind of punishment. After that my nephew went - the information I got - across the yard, and was calling his father on the phone, and that was the time that the officer came from behind and told him to get up. He lifted his hands up, and he was shot right there; no running, or no other kind of stuff that they put out on the media happened. So, I don't know where they got those information from."

Police say that they found a weapon where Vernon had collapsed after he was fatally injured.

ACP Joseph Myvette
"The scene was processed, where one 380, Lorcin brand, pistol was found on the scene. Police have launched both a criminal and internal investigation into this matter. We have been given several information, and several leads which we are working on at this point in time. The officer in question is also detained at this time, pending this investigation."

Franz Vernon Sr.
"I want to know which man has enough manhood to stand up with an unlicensed gun in front of officers, and the officer will come 2, 3 or 4 times, and you will still stand up there. I don't think anybody in their normal sense will do that. And, if the officer knew - because they said they knew he had gun, why didn't they come with an entire entourage to apprehend this gunman then?"

Again, on the ground, the accounts are that this was not a tidy and by-the-books police shooting.

Sources told us that the scene was not properly secured, and that it would not have been too difficult for a weapon to be planted. In fact, one off-camera interviewee told PGTV News that he and others went with the officer who shot Vernon, and did a search. He asserted that no weapon was found.

Voice of: Eyewitness - First Responder
"3 of us were witnesses, or 5 of us, after the officer killed Mr. Vernon, 5 of us went with the officer, back on the scene. And we searched Mario Vernon, and we found no gun."

The bystanders also take issue with the fact that the police, from their account, the officer handled Vernon's body without dignity. They say he was dragged out to the road side and then roughly thrown into the back of the police mobile. He was taken to PG Town Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Franz Vernon
"And, the way how my nephew, after he was shot, his body was there. He was already dead. He was dragged, like a worthless piece of nothing, dragged and thrown into the vehicle, and taken to the hospital. When I arrived there, he was dead already. To me, this looks like a whole - this thing doesn't look right to me. So, the family, they are doing their investigation with their attorney, and so."

And then, there are multiple accounts that responding officers came after the fact, and took away a lady's phone. She was videotaping the entire aftermath on her device, which was confiscated. The videos were later deleted.

Franz Vernon
"I was at the station the same time the young lady, whose phone was taken away, was there at the station. And she was mad. She was telling them why they chanced the youth man, why the did this to him. That man never deserved that, and she want her phone because, it's just like a robbery. Someone just come and grabbed your phone. If somebody do that, that's a charge, to grab someone's phone and take it with you, and then return it back afterwards."

Police say that they are conducting a criminal and an internal investigation into this shooting.

ACP Joseph Myvette
"All the information that was given to us, and included those, are being followed by the police. Myself, Mr. Williams, the Commander of the Professional Standards Branch, were on the ground for the entire day yesterday, and I believe he may have gone back down there today."

And they have a grieving family that's watching their every move like a hawk.

Franz Vernon
"He's just 24 years-old. That's not the way he was gonna remain. People change. The man had his entire life ahead of him. So, they cut the man's life short, and I don't know if they feel happy about what they did. But, it cannot go like that."

"My family, we are here in this town for over 200 years. We are one of the oldest families here. We did a lot for this town, and everything, and to allow my nephew to go like that, justice has to be served here."

Notably, the police did not make the lead investigator - who is ACP Chester Williams, the commander of the Professional Standards Branch, available to answer the media's questions today. He should have been there since he is most familiar with the fine details of a sensitive case with high levels of public scrutiny and distrust.


21 Year Old Female Found Dead In Room, But Police Say No Foul Play

And there is another death investigation in the Toledo District - and it's for a 21 year old woman who was found dead in the room she was renting. Police told us the little they know about the mysterious demise of 21 year old Joycelyn Dominguez:

ACP Joseph Myvette, Head of NCIB
"Shortly after 8 pm police responded to a room in the Bella Vista district where they saw the lifeless body of a Hispanic female later identified as Joycelin Dominguez. 21 years Belizean who was seen motionless. She was last seen alive sometime around 2 am on the said Friday Police investigation into this matter also continues."

"At the time she was found there was no visible sign of violence on her body. Apparently she was not living with her family. She was living down there with friends."

So, at this time, police do not suspect foul play. A post mortem has been scheduled for Wednesday.


Three Way Motorcycle Collision Leads To Single Fatality

One man was killed in a three way motorbike collision last night on the Western Highway. It happened at around 7:30 near the Westar Truck Stop and Convenience Store between miles 56 and 57.

24 year old Jeffrey Thompson was riding one motorbike, 28 year old Raul Garcia was riding another, while Francisco Polanco was riding his bike. Somehow, all three of them crashed and Polanco - who is from the Stann Creek Valley Road - got the worst of it. He was flung off his bike, landed on his head - and died on the spot.

Raul Garcia's motorbike had no license or license plate.

Blood samples were taken from both surviving riders, Thompson and Garcia - and they have both been issued with a notice of intended prosecution. Thompson is from Belmopan, and Garcia from the Young Bank area.


Policeman Dies 8 Days After Accident

Police officer Enid Tillett was knocked down on January 6th. The constable was on a patrol bike when 24 year old Jesus Enrique Munoz knocked him down in a Ford Escape. Well, Tillett succumbed to his injuries on Sunday morning - eight days after the accident. As a consequence, today, Munoz's charge was upgraded to Manslaughter by Negligence and Causing Death by Careless Conduct. He was arraigned and got bail of $5,000 dollars and one surety of the same amount.

He had already been charged for "Drove motor vehicle without due care and attention, Failed to give way when changing direction, Negligent Grievous Harm and Used Motor Vehicle without third party risk insurance."

All this means police believe he had the fault - by not giving way - and, additionally, his vehicle didn't have insurance.




Alleged Killer From Rival Gang Charged

Leon Garcia was fatally stabbed on New Year's morning by a killer who ambushed him on his way home. Police know that it was a murder motivated by gang rivalry between Victoria Street and Pink's Alley.

Today 24 year-old Stephen Flowers from Pinks Alley Address was charged with Garcia's murder when he appeared today before Chief Magistrate Sharon Fraser.

He was remanded into custody until April 16th, 2017.


PSU Past President and Trustee Jackie Willoughby Resigns in Exasperation

Tensions continue to beleaguer the Public Service Union, and tonight the news is about the abrupt resignation of a high profile trustee. Jackie Willoughby - who's been with the PSU for decades - and is a former president - writes in a letter, quote, "With great pain I have come as far as I can go with PSU. I find that the vision for the growth and welfare of membership is non existent. Everything is sojourned on the personal and ethnic front…"

Willoughby then refers to personal attacks made upon her by the members of the council of management. And, to follow up on this, the letter of resignation is accompanied by a lawyer's letter from Michel Chebat warning the current president Doreth Cayetano Obermayer about defaming Willoughby with a baseless allegation.

And on the matter of finances, Willoughby also adds in her letter, that there are checks leaving the office without the Treasurer's signature as required. She says, quote, "yet when questions are asked there are no answers. I can never stand before an AGM and not be able to account to the membership." End quote.

In closing, she laments, quote, "behaviors around this current council of management is too fouled with personality, ethnicity, disrespect, and lack of decorum…that has result din a toxic atmosphere, not conducive to serving the membership…" End quote.

We note that former President Eldred Neal had commented liberally - and offensively - on the divide in the union along ethnic lines, between the creoles and the Garifuna's. This abrupt departure is seen as symptomatic of a deepening divide along those lines.


House Meeting This Friday….NOT!

Seems the media got it wrong when it reported on that House Meeting planned for this coming Friday.

We said it would be for the vote on the 90 million dollars for the Belize Bank - but it won't happen - not yet, at least. And that's because there is no House Meeting planned for this coming Friday, January 19th.

We based our news on this press release from the Government Press office - which came in on Friday morning - and the subject line says clearly "Sitting of the House of Representatives | January 19, 2018."

But within the mail - it speaks about a Senate meeting. But, this media house and others, looked at that subject line and ran with it. But, it won't happen - all that will happen is a regular senate meeting on Friday - which we'll have coverage of.

It seems government is sticking to its plan to have the decisive meeting in February - even though there are reports that the Belize Bank is applying to have the CCJ compel government to pay up immediately.


Shooting On Armadillo Street

It could have been murder, but luckily it wasn't when two males - one of them only 15 - were shot last night while hanging out on Armadillo Street. One of the men was shot in the face. He survived, and police told us more.

ASP Alejandro Cowo, OC-CIB Belize City
"Sometime after 9:20 pm the police visited the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where they observed two male persons with an apparent gunshot wound. The first one is a 15-year-old minor who had an apparent gunshot wound to the right leg. He was treated and discharged the same night. Another male person by the name of Ian Williams. He received an apparent gunshot wound to the right side of his face he is still admitted in a stable condition at this time. Police understand the male persons were socializing at a yard on Armadillo Street when two male persons came on a motorcycle and one of the male persons fired several shots at their direction causing the above-mentioned injuries. Mr. Williams is still admitted in a stable condition at the KHMH."

The investigation continues.


Cran Street Jacking Nets Big Payday for Thieves

This morning on Cran Street a Chinese businessman was robbed of over $60,000 dollars in cash and cheques while in his car. The police shared the few details they had with us.

ASP Alejandro Cowo, OC-CIB Belize City
"He was stopped by two male persons armed with a firearm. He was robbed of his belongings totalling an amount of $10,000 in cash and about $53,000 worth of cheques. At present, the police in the area are conducting searches to see if they could identity of the two suspects that were involved in this robbery."

The businessman was in the process of filing a police report when the police gave us the report. We will keep you updated new developments during the week.


More Cran Street Craziness

And that same Can Street was the scene of a shooting on Friday night. Friday night in Belize City started off with a shooting on Cran Street. The victim was Kareem Williams. His injuries were not fatal but he did end up in hospital. The police gave more details.

ASP Alejandro Cowo, OC-CIB Belize City
"Police visited the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where they observed a male person by the name of Kareem Williams with a gunshot injury to the right leg. He was treated on that same night and discharged from the hospital. Initial information that the police has gathered so far is that Mr. Williams was walking on Cran Street when he was approached by a male person who fired several shots at him causing the above-mentioned injuries. That case is still under investigation and police is looking for one male person to question."

The motive is still unclear. Police continue to investigate.


5 Men and A Gun

A group of young men were taken to court today after police stopped them in a van where a gun was hidden inside. Police on patrol saw a minivan driving without lights at 11:00 at night. Five young men were inside and so was a nine millimeter pistol with 15 live rounds.

So, today, 24 year old, Nelson Jared Juarez, 19 year olds Mark Humes and Brandon Smith, 18 year old Osbaldo Nieto and 23 year old Jonathan Nieto were charged with kept firearm and ammunition without a gun license when they appeared before Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford.

They pled not guilty but were remanded into custody until April 16.


57 Year Old Man Accused Molesting 2 Year Old Child

Today a 57 year old was charged for molesting a two year old baby girl.

It allegedly happened on January 2nd. The child's mother reported to police that she was in her house and looked out the window to see the man caressing her daughter's chest in a sexual manner.

Today, Bernadat Reyes, known as "Burns", a plumber of a West Street address, was charged with sexual assault before Chief Magistrate, Sharon Fraser. Reyes pled not guilty but the prosecutor objected to bail.

Reyes had nothing to say in response to the objection, and Chief Magistrate Fraser remanded him into custody until March 14.


Pregnant Woman Under Police Guard Accused of Social Security Shadiness

Tonight a Santa Elena man is spending another night without his pregnant wife after she was charged and detained. 26 year old Wendy Castro went to the Social Security office in San Ignacio on Friday to apply for a Social Security Card - specifically to try and get some form of benefit during her pregnancy. Her husband, Gustavo Velasquez says she has been working as a house maid for Luke Espat for 8 years and she has been paying Social Security during that time. So they thought there wouldn't be any problem securing a Social Security card. But it wasn't a smooth process at the office that Friday at all. The police were called in because they had issue with the documentation she presented. Here is the police side of the story.

ACP Joseph Myvett, NCIB
"In San Ignacio police received a report from the Social Security board that one Wendy Castro arrived there at the Social Security office in San Ignacio on Friday evening and presented a Belizean birth certificate for which she intend to apply for SS card. As a result the police as called and she was interviewed and detained, she was found in possession of her Guatemala passport and during the course of the investigation the police also found out that in October 2014 she had already made an attempt to apply for a SS card with a Guatemalan birth certificate. She was refused. She has since been arrested and charged for obtaining a birth certificate under false pretense."

Reporter
"It has been said that the Vital Statistics office has said that the certificate was issued in error."

ACP Joseph Myvett, NCIB
"Right?"

Reporter
"And it was issued in her name correct?"

ACP Joseph Myvett, NCIB
"Yes, so it would be that she made false representation in order to obtain the birth certificate."

Reporter
"Are you able to confirm if in fact there was any attempt by politically affiliated people to get her released from those charges?"

ACP Joseph Myvett, NCIB
"No none that I know about."

Well her husband, Gustavo Velasquez begs to differ, when we spoke to the husband over phone, he says it is all about politics. He says his wife is a born Belizean and that it is not right to have locked up a woman who is 8 months pregnant.

Reporter
"She was born here?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"She was born here but her mother took her back to her country to grow up."

Reporter
"At what age did her mom take her back to Guatemala?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"I do not know exactly."

Reporter
"Okay but you would say as a baby?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"Yes as a baby I would say, but she is a Belizean because she was born in Belize."

Reporter
"Do you know when she came back to Belize?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"I'm not sure, she's been with me for the last 4-5 years."

Reporter
"Let's go now to what happened on Friday, just tell us based on your understanding what happened. Did she go by herself to the Social Security office, were you with her? What exactly happened? Your version of the story."

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"She went to Social Security to try to apply for her Social Security card. I asked her if she wanted me to go with her to check on her. She said 'no it's okay', it's just to sign something and she'll be right back with me, because I was taking care of my son. A few minutes after, I saw her coming out crying and two police came behind her. Only she knew why they had taken her to the station. I did not know why."

Reporter
"So when you got to the station, what did they tell you then?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"That she had false documents, birth paper."

Reporter
"Okay and what was your response to this? Do you know of any false documentation that she has?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"No, she has everything right, set everything in order. She went down to Toledo to find the doctor and the nurse that helped her mother give birth to her. She found them, got a JP to sign, went through the hospital, everything was set in order. You cannot change at the clerk in the hospital, everything is in order."

Reporter
"And you don't know if she has a Guatemalan birth certificate?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"No, I do not know about that, I think she must have that, I do not know."

Reporter
"Okay so what do you think the issue was then? With her presenting this birth certificate? Why did they see it as a false documentation?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"Well because she has been working for Luke Espat for the past 8 years and I do not remember what's the name of the Head Commanding officer in Cayo, because Luke Espat went in and said he came to present her. Things just went all wrong."

Reporter
"So you think this is political?"

Gustavo Velasquez, Husband
"Yes this went political. I would really like to have them launch an investigation as to why is this exactly. An investigation as to why they had to do something like that and she's 8 and 1/2 month pregnant, they have no kind of heart or consideration towards anyone on a cold floor sleeping for 2 days. It was cold up here in Cayo. People can just imagine the suffering she went through. I've been trying day in and day out to take her out and I cannot."

So still, it is not clear as to what documentation Castro presented at the Social Security office because police have all the documents. In terms Castro's health, her husband says that the stress she endured in detention has affected the baby - the doctors said that she got an infection and that the baby has shifted position. Castro is at the hospital right now under police guard. We will keep following this case.


CARICOM Scolds Pres. Trump

US President Donald Trump has been quoted describing a number of developing nations in very crude language. One of those countries is Haiti, and, on Saturday, CARICOM sprung to its defence.

A release says, quote, "CARICOM is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of derogatory and repulsive language by the President of the United States in respect of our Member State, Haiti, and other developing countries. CARICOM condemns in the strongest terms, the unenlightened views reportedly expressed."

It concludes, quote, "CARICOM...views this insult to the character of the countries named and their citizens as totally unacceptable." End quote.


Agric, Let's Get Growing

The dates for the 2018 National Agriculture and Trade Show have been set. This year, the biggest fair in Belize will be held on April 27, 28 and 29. The theme for this year's fair is : "Let's Get Growing".

Last year about 40,000 people attended the show.


What’s The story of The Shotgun?

Belmopan police believe a shotgun may give them an insight into cracking open a case. Yesterday at around 3:30, Belmopan police were following up on a story which led them to a wooded area in the Maya Mopan area, Belmopan. They found a 16 gauge shotgun - with no serial number - neatly stored and wrapped up in the bush - about a mile from the road. First off they are trying to determine who owns it - but for the time being, it has been labelled as found property.





7News for Monday, January 15th, 2018 from 7News Belize on Vimeo.


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