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Did GSU Officers use unnecessary force?

Yesterday, a video showing a confrontation between three officers of the Gang Suppression Unit and a Belize City resident was posted on Facebook. It shows 21 year old Ryan Rhaburn being detained by the GSU officers and what his family described as clear abuse of power. Rhaburn’s girlfriend, who videoed the incident, shared what she saw and experienced.

Voice of Ryan Rhaburn’s Girlfriend: “The GSU truck pulled up, the officer just jumped out and said ‘turn around mek a search you.’ which he did turn around put his hand on the vehicle he searched them. He said “young man what is your name?” and then he said his name. The officers said ‘well in fact go into the vehicle and get your id.’ which he did. He gave him the ID ‘you didn’t hear I asked you your name then?’ he said ‘but you have my ID right there.’ The next officer said ‘let me take your picture.’ I came and I intervened and said as far as I know Chester said that they are not supposed to take your picture and then he said let me take your picture. He turned his head and that is when they put him in the chokehold position. Then pushed him and just took him to the truck and then it transpired where the choking turned in to them having him on the floor and them being on top of him on the floor and being on top of him and the next GSUG officer being the one who had him in the chokehold as well so both of them and they choke hold him all the way to push him into the back of the pick up truck.”

Reporter: Was he resisting arrest?

Voice of Ryan Rhaburn’s Girlfriend: “He did everything they said but I think the problem was when he said they are not supposed to take his picture and the officers seemed arrogant, like he was there on a mission to do something because several times we see the police. There is a police booth right there, there are many times that they could have stopped him and searched him. I always see them stop search and get people’s name and move on- why on that day he came arrogant and so aggressive for one young man and he is not as tall or as buff for the way they did their job.”

Reporter: How many GSU officers were present?

Voice of Ryan Rhaburn’s Girlfriend: “There were four GSU officers but only two of them and while one of them was having him in a choke hold the other one was laughing. “

Reporter: So one of the officers pulled out a gun while the kids and everyone was around?

Voice of Ryan Rhaburn’s Girlfriend:“Yes while my neighbors and everyone was around.”

Reporter: What did he do with that gun? Did he beat him with the gun or did he point it at anyone?

Voice of Ryan Rhaburn’s Girlfriend: “No the other officer was trying to stuff him in the vehicle by chokehold because then the neighbors and everyone was trying to intervene because what they were doing was uncalled for. I would have understood if he resisted or he fought back or did something out of the way but if you were doing a search they didn’t’ even search the vehicle.”

We also spoke to Rhaburn’s mother, Shari Lopez, who says that her family has been harassed and their house shot at over the past couple of months.

Shari Lopez, Mother: “This has to stop. This has to stop. Because now I am sure that they know that my son has this ongoing case and part of his condition is that if gets into trouble his bail will be revoked and he will go to jail. Now I know these people and I want them to know that I am personally not afraid of any one of you. But it is time for me to put my foot down as a parent. I will not sit and watch any one of you take advantage of my child. If he was doing something wrong yesterday and you had to do what you had to do then fine but my child wasn’t doing anything wrong. He complied with every single thing that they asked him to do. Now I am sure that everyone could recall that Mr.Williams mentioned on national tv that they are not supposed to take your pictures for profiling because some of the officers take your pictures for their own personal use. Call it what it may, there are a lot of police officers out here that are placed to uphold the law but instead of upholding the law they are upholding criminal activity such as being in gangs. These things have to stop.”

Reporter: What went through your mind when you saw the video?

Shari Lopez, Mother: “When I saw the video? It was plain to be seen that they were sent there to interfere with my child. It was plain to be seen. They were placed there to intimidate my child probably because they can’t intimidate me the parent they are trying to intimidate my child.”

Reporter: How is your child doing ?

Shari Lopez, Mother: “Well when I spoke to him this morning he said he was in a lot of pain. So I requested that they take him to see the doctor to see what the position is with him because way they had him down on the ground and flinging him around like a ragdoll and kicking him all up in the face and chest I mean come on, he is way smaller than these two men. I am pleading to Mr.Wylie to do something about this because this is way out of control. I mean it’s simple if you have a job to do nobody is stopping from you doing  your job. It’s not the message you take across it’s how you do it. Because you could have come to him and talked differently or acted differently. You know that you’re not supposed to profile any individual. So that should have been ruled out from the first instance and this is the reason why I am of the opinion that it’s a personal vendetta against my child.”

Reporter: Which has been happening for ?

Shari Lopez, Mother: “Which has been happening for quite some time.”

Chester Williams, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, today contradicted why the family is saying. According to Williams, while any abuse at the hands of police officers is denounced by the department, in this particular case, Rhaburn was resisting arrest and the officers had to do what was needed in order to detain him.

Chester Williams, the Deputy Commissioner of Police : “At times we encounter persons who may be resistant to the Police. In the particular incident that was the case from what I have been made to understand. If you look at the video, the video didn’t show the officers doing what they did. But from what we have gathered, is that the police officers went to detain the young man who was wanted in connection with an investigation. They had a back and forth with the police trying to convince him to go with them and he blatantly said to the police he is not going anywhere. Now what you expect the police to do, walk away from a man who refuses to be taken into custody. The law is clear that the Police must use all force that is reasonably necessary  in the circumstances to detain a person who is wanted by the police and from what I saw on the video, the police used the force that was necessary to detain the person. I didn’t see the police brutalizing him. They grabbed him, then they took him to the vehicle to get him inside the vehicle and take him to the police station . I need the public to understand that while yes we support the public, in the sense that the police must not brutalize them, we call upon the public to be more cooperative with the police. Even if the police want to detain you and you know you have not committed a crime, your duty is not to comply. If at the end of the day the investigation proves that you are not the person who committed the crime you will be released from custody but when you resist arrest the law does give the police authority to use force that is necessary to get you into custody.”

The matter is being investigated.