Last week Friday, police were sent to the home of Richard Allen Garcia in Chunox Village in Corozal. Garcia had been asked to move out of the residence by the owner earlier this year, but refused. The owner then made a complaint against Garcia and the police went to confront him, but he evaded them. That was back in March; when the cops went to confront him on Friday June 9th, Garcia allegedly came out swinging a machete. According to police, one of the officers tripped, and Garcia quickly attempted to chop him in the head, at which point another officer fired off a few warning shots. When Garcia continued, the officer then fired again, killing him on the spot.
By the time more cops showed up to process the scene, dozens of angry villagers gathered around eventually forcing the police to flee after the villagers assaulted them with projectiles. The police left Garcia's body behind, along with key evidence, but came back the next day with as many 12 units.
In yesterday's newscast we showed you the police's perspective of the incident. Today, we have an interview with Garcia's relative who is questioning the police's actions. Here's Alex Courtenay with the story...
Alex Courtenay reporting
Tensions between the residents of Chunox and the police involved in the shooting of Richard Allen Garcia last Friday have left the exact circumstances leading up to his death unclear. In the aftermath of his death, the villagers and Garcia's relatives are questioning the necessity of the use of such force against him.
"My reaction was, I was very shocked because for me this shouldn't have been done in the village, because I think the police came directly to him with that mentality. Too much force, it was 4 police officers against one. If he attacked the police according to what the police report say that he attacked the police with a machete - the other police could have shot his foot or his arm, but not on his head. That's my point of view. They didn't have to shoot him to be killed."
On Friday night, police arrived at Garcia's doorstep heavily armed. According to some residents, the cops were armed with M16's, a weapon so powerful that regular civilians are not allowed to own them. Many are wondering whether that scale of firepower was necessary for evicting one man, but according to the Corozal Police Commander, the cops didn't know what to expect, so they went prepared.
"On Friday when the officers went and confront Mr. Garcia, we were told through our conversation with the residents that those officers were very heavily armed. Was that amount necessary to go and deal with one man who as far as you know just has a machete?"
Sr. Supt. Dennis Arnold - Commander, Corozal Police
"At that point the officers didn't know what they were going to meet. Its best you go over armed than under armed."
What could have made the police so fearful of Garcia? Well, aside from previous threats of violence, a relative of Garcia says that he struggled with anger issues.
"Is Richard is a big guy, is he a small guy? Would there be any reason the police would fear him?"
"He wasn't a big guy, he was slim, but he has strong muscles. What I think is that the police already knew him because as you see him you are going to be kind of afraid because just by seeing him, he was a little bit - he use to trip-off mentally. He had a mental health problem."
And after being chased from the scene by angry villagers, who pelted them with everything from glass bottles to mangos, the police came back the next day with a lot more back up, which angered the villagers even more.
"On Saturday they came and even though they brought GSU, riot squad and almost 10-12 police vehicles came. People were very mad, because this is a small village. Even the kids were afraid. They were like what the hell is happening here and the police didn't say anything to the villagers why a lot of force in the village."
Because of the nature of the incident, the police department's Professional Standards Branch also conducting an investigation. The police's involvement in the shooting alone warrants some looking into, but according to some people in the area, the cops who initially confronted Garcia may not have been in the right state of mind.
"Some people are telling us that before the police came, they were seen drinking at a resort nearby. Have you heard this?"
"Yes, I have heard about it. Even today I was crossing the ferry and I heard the owner of the restaurant said that they 4 police officers were drinking at Orchid Bay Resort earlier before they came here, because they cross the ferry 1:30-2:00 and they didn't reach here like after minutes to 5."
We spoke to Senior Superintendent Arnold about the drinking allegation, and he told us that while he is aware of the claims, he knows nothing about it.
Yesterday we told you that the case had already been sent to the DPP, and that the police are awaiting her advice. The DPP contacted us this afternoon to let us know that not only has she NOT received a file, but there has been no communication whatsoever between her and the Corozal Police.