High-Power Rifle Stolen from Belize Defense Force Camp Sparks Internal Investigation
The Belize Defense Force is investigating its own after a high-power rifle was stolen over the weekend from Belizario Camp, Cayo District. The M4 Commando rifle was taken from its rack held in the camp’s guard room, and investigators are leaning toward it being an inside job. The weapon was assigned to the BDF’s stand-by unit and is yet to be found. Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Leal, explained that there is not much known about the incident and said that the investigation is ongoing.
Lt.Col. Ricardo Leal, Chief of Staff, Belize Defence Force: “A subunit of the unit in Camp Belizario was responsible to provide standby duties. Standby duties is normally for a seven day period. We are not able to ascertain at the moment when actually the weapon went missing however we do have persons of interest. What I would like to say as well is whilst the investigation is ongoing at the moment we have teams on the ground and we are working in collaboration with the police department to find out what transpired so we can end this case. So we are presently in the preliminary investigation. Well actually what happens is normally we would secure it in a different location. So we are trying to ascertain if the weapon was taken from somebody that might have had the key or somebody who would have did something to breach the security in terms of picking the lock or whatever but we don’t know at the moment but we know that it’s taken from the actual safe that we have the weapons.”
Reporter: So when you say persons of interest that means there may have been collaboration ?
Lt.Col. Ricardo Leal, Chief of Staff, Belize Defence Force:“It’s premature to say that but we believe that the investigation would unveil that information.”
Leal further explained that soldiers suspected of being involved have been placed in confinement. He further noted that the force is unable to say how the gun went missing from a room that was under lock and key.
Lt.Col. Ricardo Leal, Chief of Staff, Belize Defence Force:“There’s no 100% security but yes we do have people that are responsible, obligated to secure or take care of these weapons. But as I said we have people of interest and this is where we’re going to focus on.”
Reporter: The question is whether they are on suspension, on leave while that investigation is ongoing?
Lt.Col. Ricardo Leal, Chief of Staff, Belize Defence Force:“Well at the moment we have them confined. So we cannot just send people on suspension because we don’t know the outcome of the investigation. So therefore, but they are confined at the moment.”
The military force is also investigating two complaints of alleged sexual misconduct. The first instance happened three months ago at the First Battalion Infantry in Camp Belizaro and is being classified as sexual harassment. The BDF’s Headquarters became aware of the incident last Friday and say the actions are contrary to the BDF Sexual Harassment Policy. The force has since launched a full investigation into the matter, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jermaine Burns. His findings and recommendations should be submitted to the Headquarters by the end of the month.
The second complaint occurred just last week at the BDF’s Section Commander’s Battle Course in the Mountain Pine Ridge Area. The soldier says she was sleeping under a tent when she realized that her weapon, which was tucked between her legs, was missing. She was unable to receive an explanation from her peers regarding the weapon’s removal and believed she was sexually assaulted. The soldier reported the incident, and requested to leave the course, as a result. The BDF has since commenced an investigation into the matter to determine whether anyone will be held accountable. This investigation is being led by Major Megan Aspinal. The BDF says that it remains resolute in its Sexual Harassment Policy and more importantly maintains zero tolerance for any kind of sexual allegations.