Last night after 9 pm police were called to a burglary in progress at 7 Days Grocery Store on Mahogany Street in Belize City. In one of his first acts as Police Commissioner, Chester Williams deployed officers to the scene as the burglars were still inside the business. It’s officially referred to as a home invasion but it turned into a hostage situation as the police officers surrounded the establishment. The officers, including Commissioner Williams, came under fire from the shooters. The owners of the building were still inside as the shots rang out. Luckily no one was hit by gunfire. Commissioner Williams explained to the media today how he got the suspects Richard O’Neil, Steven Bernard and Wayne Welch to surrender.
Police Commissioner Chester Williams: “ I personally went to the scene as well to be able to coordinate the police response and about ten minutes of being there we saw the two proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Lang rushing out of the building. They were injured and bleeding and had duct tape on their mouths. They were pulled to safety at which time they told us that their 16-year-old daughter was still inside the building. The building was locked and so I directed the Gang Suppression Unit to get the breaching equipment so that we can breach the door and go in. While we were standing on the street in front of the building I saw a male person come to the veranda on the upper flat of the building and pointed a firearm at our direction and fired two shots. Thankfully neither of us were caught, we ran and we took cover behind a nearby house as well as our vehicles that were parked in the area. The standoff continued for about another two hours at which time I found out who were the burglars and I made a call to one of them and that call led to me having a back and forth with the individual trying to get him to surrender. The thing is that we had to be very cautious as the daughter was still in the building and we didn’t want to do anything that would have caused them to injure or kill the little girl and so the negotiation lasted for about 20 minutes at which time they all agreed that they are going to surrender and so I directed them to go on the veranda near the burglar bars where we can see each of them and their hands. They did that and after that was done we breached the building and we went in and the three suspects were caught namley: Richard O’ Neal, Steven Bernard and Wayne Welch. They were taken into custody and the little girl was also found inside the building unharmed..
And what was the cause of all the drama, hostage crisis and assault of the shopkeepers? Commissioner Williams said I was little over 600 dollars. This morning the police returned to the scene and recovered a firearm. During that talk with Commissioner, he mentioned that this incident has motivated him to find a suitable officer to head the Gang Suppression Unit.
Police Commissioner Chester Williams: “I will tell you that I have in mind a specific officer to command the Gang Suppression Unit and that officer is well trained and I am sure that if he should take up the command of that unit he will be able to train the members of the Gang Suppression Unit as I believe that they would be a good unit to be able to deal with situations of this nature so with him going there and getting further assistance maybe from different agencies we should be able to have a team that will be able to be tasked specifically with situations of this nature. A search of the building veranda we found a bag of money amounting to $670 there about and this morning we went back because we couldn’t find the weapon last night so we went back again this morning and we managed to find one black 9 mm pistol and so we have the suspects, we have the money, we have the firearm, the child was unharmed and so I believe that the work that we did was commendable and I want to thank my officers who were out there with me who were extremely brave to approach the situation putting their lives at risk in a view to try and save the child and to apprehend the culprits. Those persons should be charged either today or tomorrow. Mr. and Mrs. Leng are currently at the KHMH admitted in a stable condition as they received severe injuries to the face so that investigation continues. I made a call to one of them as I found out who was inside the building and we had a twenty minute back and forth negotiating. They are all from the Tibruce and Jasmin St. area. As you know the proprietors are of Asian descent and we don’t have Police officers who speak Asian as is the norm the proprietor requested to have Mr. Lee Mark Chang present so that I could bridge that communication barrier between us and them and so after the dust was settled Mr. Chang was brought in and he assisted the police in terms of communicating with the victims.