From a military base to a prison cell – that is the reality for BDF Private Raheem Valencio. He is the soldier who fired that fatal shot, killing his fellow soldier, 29-year-old, Jesse Escobar on the night of Sunday, September 5. That was about 72 hours ago, and already the DPP has reviewed the evidence collected, categorizing the case as a murder. We join Reporter Vejea Alvarez for the details.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: BDF Private Reheem Valencio has been remanded to the Belize Central Prison after his arraignment before Magistrate Ed Usher. The hands of justice are moving quickly as it was less than seventy two hours ago that Valencia was caught on camera firing the fatal shot at Jesse Escobar, a fellow soldier who was with his wife and child at a store in Santa Familia Village Cayo district. Love News was out at the San Ignacio Court house this morning where the charge sheets for Valencia along with BDF Corporal Ramon Alcoser and Police Constable Juan Morales were prepared. From there the trio was taken to the Belmopan Magistrate’s Court where the media met up with Valencio’s Attorney Oscar Selgado.
Oscar Selgado, Attorney for Raheem Valencio: “Raheem Valencia the BDF soldier is charged with one count of murder. He was denied bail. Because of the severity of the charge the criminal procedure rules provides that the office of the DPP will have the police who are investigating coupled with the office of the DPP will have something like eight months thereabout to prepare to for disclosure. Disclosure in this case is two weeks before the preliminary inquiry. So they normally would have about eight months to prepare full disclosure. So when we come back on the 30th of November I don’t expect anything to happen in terms of disclosure. This investigation is still ongoing as the commissioner has said. Charges have been proffered yes but the investigation is ongoing. There is need for ballistics report, there is need for all sorts of things from the autopsy so the investigation is in its infancy. “
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The charge of murder, that is what residents were lobbying for as they burnt tires and trees at the entrace of the village on Monday night. That one single charge is what many had referred to as justice including Escobar’s mother Noreen. For the Police Commissioner however he had promised to bring justice for the fallen soldier and according to him the decision for the murder charge was not influenced by public pressure.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “We don’t act on public pressure but rather we must always be guided by the evidence that the investigation reveals. What we simply did was to put the evidence together, conduct investigation properly and send the evidence to the DPP for her determination as the law dictates we must do and the DPP having looked at all the evidence that we have gathered came to the determination that the BDF must be charged for murder and the police and the other BDF be charged for attempt to pervert the course of justice for the fact that they lied in their statement with a view to cover up what actually transpired.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Awaiting the arrival of the men at the San Ignacio court house were Escobar’s family, friends and neighbors. Among them was his father-in-law retired teacher Maestro Garcia.
Victor Pott, Father-in-Law of Jessie Escobar: “Janine is my daughter and she is traumatized at the moment along with my grandchild. Anytime she sees a personnel in uniform, soldier or a police my litter daughter would cry, my little grand daughter would cry and would say ‘I don’t want to be here. I want to go. They’re going to kill my mom now.’ So it hurts so much that this thing shouldn’t have happened. I think that there was another way how to have managed this situation. “
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: While the spotlight is on Valencia who fired the fatal shot Corporal Ramon Alcoser and Police Constable Juan Morales were also presented with a slew of charges including an attempt to obstruct justice. While the commissioner was unable to speak on the internal repercussions for BDF Corporal Alcoser he did speak on the road ahead for PC Morales.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “He is facing a very serious charge, that of attempting to pervert the course of justice and also internally he will face a slew of charges as well which also includes the breach of department policy, act of prejudice to good order and discipline. His conduct on the scene, how he behaved waving the baton and using these profanities there are many things that we can look at as it relates to his conduct that we are going to deal with internally.”
Reporter: Will his dismissal or the dismissal of the BDF soldiers have to go trough the advisory committee or the securities commission?
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “I cannot speak about the BDF matter that’s a matter for the BDF to discuss as it relates to their policy so I’m not going to comment on that.”
Reporter: And the dismissal of Mr. Morales if he is dismissed will that have to go through any of these bodies ?
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “No the law does provide that once a police officer is convicted for any breach of discipline that the Commissioner of Police considers to be a major disciplinary infraction that the Commissioner of Police has the power to dismiss.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: The men are to return to court on November 30.
Love News has learnt that the senior command of the BDF will be applying to the Security Services Commission to place the soldiers on official interdiction.