Fourteen of the twenty-eight prisoners who escaped on Monday evening from the Belize Central Prison have been recaptured. Police Commissioner Chester Williams had a press conference this morning and had reported a total of nine. By mid-afternoon, however, the Police received a tip from a resident at the Taiwanese community at mile 25 on the George Price Highway. Police and BDF moved into the area and by three o’clock they had detained five more of the escapees. According to the Commissioner, three of the prisoners had voluntarily surrendered to the Police.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “So far we have recaptured a total of nine of the escapees leaving a total of nineteen who are still at large. Of the nine who had been recaptured one of those individuals Akeem Tillett was shot and killed during the manhunt in the Coastal Road area. The others have been charged by the police for escape and will be arraigned in court today. We have credible information that a number of these escapees have returned to their area of residence prior to prison and they are being facilitated by family members and friends. I want to sound the warning that it is a criminal offence to aid or abet an escaped prisoner or a convicted person or a wanted person. And once it is that we are to find any of these prisoners at the home of anybody or if we can obtain concrete evidence of anyone facilitating them that those concerns will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I again want to appeal to family members it is best to have your loved ones surrender themselves than to have the security forces out there pursuing them. We continue to consider these escapees as being armed and dangerous and the safety and security of our personnel will always be paramount.”
Among the prisoners who have been recaptured is Akeem Tillett who was killed during the manhunt. Tillett was spotted near a citrus orchard on the Coastal Road on Tuesday during a joint operation with the Belize Defence Force and the Belize Police Department. Police Commissioner spoke on Tillett’s death and the two of his officers who were injured by the prisoner during the capture.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Are fully aware that two law enforcement officers were shot and when the officers who were shot had the encounter with Akeem Tillett and others Akeem Tillett who was armed with the M4 Carbine rifle that was taken from the prison shot at the security forces injuring two a BDF and a police and the police responded proportionately and Akeem Tillett was history.”
Reporter: At this point is it suspected that at any of these individuals have crossed any of the border points yet ?
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “At this time no and I can say that we have apprehended one of the Guatemalans who escaped so two of the Guatemalans are still at large. We have only recovered the M4 Carbine and we have not recovered any other firearm from them so if that is the case then yes they will still have it. A man on the run from the long arm of the law will surely try his utmost best to arm himself so that he can ward off or defend himself from the security forces so like I said before we still do expect that they’re armed and dangerous.”
Several of the prisoners appeared in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court facing charges for their escape from the facility. Once they were done with their arraignment they were carted back to the Belize Central Prison.
Virgilio Murillo, CEO, Kolbe Foundation: “Once they’re recaptured then the police will charge them for escape from prison specifically because they escaped from the prison in this situation. After that they will be arraigned by a magistrate and then more than likely the Magistrate might either adjourn their dates or either convict them automatically if they plea guilty I imagine and then they will be brought back to prison for safekeeping to make sure that they don’t escape again. We will certainly put them where they’re gonna be safe even if it’s back at the same location because that is a high security building like I told you from day one and I will maintain that. That area is very secure. As a matter of fact that is the area where people who we pick up intelligence want to escape would be housed none the less because it is considered a very secure location.”
Reporter: Now how many do you have already returned to the prison ?
Virgilio Murillo, CEO, Kolbe Foundation: “My count is showing me that nine have been recaptured. I don’t want to use the word returned to the prison because remember they’re still out there with the police, some of them being charged this morning and those kinds of things.”
27-year-old Kevin Buller is one of the fourteen prisoners who have been recaptured. While Buller has a rap sheet for charges ranging from assault to burglary, this time around he was serving time for breaching curfew amid the Covid-19 regulations. It is a simple charge with a short sentence. Tonight, however he will face additional time due to his escape.
Virgilio Murillo, CEO, Kolbe Foundation: “I had done a presentation for CARICOM IMPACS and that was shared with all of you to tune in and I remember that I said at that time that by June we had already received I think 99 people for violating COVID-19 regulations of which not wearing a face mask, not being able to provide a reason for being out after curfew hours, there was another one I can’t remember what was the other prevalent one but there was three. It says breach of curfew he is not for face mask he is for breach of curfew so he was obviously out and couldn’t provide an excuse for why he was out beyond curfew hours.
Reporter: And so he was on remand ?
Virgilio Murillo, CEO, Kolbe Foundation: “Yes. I didn’t look at the details just now but more than likely he was on remand or may have pled guilty.”
So far, those recaptured are Phillip Bowen, Deandre Guiffaro, Darren Vasquez, Victor Galeano, Joel Sierra, Deon White, Mark Pelayo, George Bradnrick, Kenroy Gamboa, Orlando Smith, Juan Ramirez, Christopher Bradley, Kevin Buller and Akeem Smith who was killed in the process.