Tonight, six police officers are on suspension as the investigation into the death of 20-year-old Derrick Uh proceeds. These police officers are expectedly not only to be charged internally but also criminally. This is what Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa told the press this afternoon. But before we go to this minister’s comments, we report on the timeline of events that led to Uh’s tragic death. Uh was found dead in a police prison van in Corozal on Sunday afternoon. He was detained by police while at the San Joaquin Fiesta early on Sunday morning for allegedly groping a woman. The Cristo Rey Village resident was detained by Corporal Gomez and Corporal Choc. Uh’s particulars were documented in the diary at the “command center” at the fiesta by Sergeant Romero who was assisted by PC Borland. PC Borland then placed Uh inside the blue Ford prisoner van. At that time, the main door was left open so there is ventilation. Two hours later, at 3:30, Inspector Sanchez held a debriefing in San Joaquin and informed the on-duty officers that TWO persons, Uh and 34-year-old Alonzo Cowo were detained and placed inside the van. The officers were told that Cowo was to be released and Uh taken to the Corozal Police Station because a formal report against him would be made later that day. PC Borland released Cowo and gave the keys for the van to PC Peralta. PC Peralta drove the van to the Corozal Police Station. In the passenger seat of the van was Sergeant Martinez. PC Peralta parked the van at the Corozal Police Station compound and gave the keys to Corporal Garcia. At this point, Uh was forgotten and it was at around 3 pm that his body was found by PC McKenzie. Uh was in there for almost fourteen hours. PC Borland, the officer who detained Uh, says that he did not tell PC Peralta, the officer who drove the van to the police station that Uh was inside the van. PC Borland said that PC Peralta was a part of the debriefing where officers were informed of the two detainees. PC Peralta says that no one told him that there was a detainee in the van. Uh’s family is demanding justice for what the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams described as gross negligence. Minister Musa explains that at this time there is no need for a forensic export from another country.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “There is no need, like I said, at this moment, to say that we need outside forensic information or outside forensic experts. I have, like I said, trust and confidence in our forensics department to carry out a thorough comprehensive analysis of this instance and like you said, this is not your ordinary run of the mill case. As a matter of fact the police is saying, the Minister of Police is saying the police is at fault here. So it’s not a case where you have to worry that there is any sort of cover up. We are saying that the police is responsible. We are telling you right off the bat where we have identified the points of weaknesses and steps that have been made but certainly the post mortem and the forensics examination that will come out, if here is any sign of injury to that individual to suggest there was another reason for his death, you can best believe that will come out from a post mortem and who you can best believe that the Police Department will take criminal action in the event that there’s any sort of suggestion that there might have been a something untoward and not just an instance of complete and gross neglect.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love Fm News: Okay just for confirmation Minister, so you concede that the police officer’s actions or inactions led to Mr. Uh’s death?
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: I concede that the inactions of the police officers definitely led to his death.
Hipolito Novelo, Love Fm News: Do you also concede that as the Commissioner did this morning that might as well if the family calls a civil suit there’s no contesting it.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: I will go so far as to say, Hipolito, that not just in the instance of Derrick Uh but in the instance of Laddie Gillett, in the instance of Allison Major, in the instance of Mr. Jules Vasquez’s brother, these are all instances where there has been negligence by the Police Department and these are instances, and I’ve said it previously in an interview, that I believe the focus of the Attorney General’s Ministry in the civil suits is to assess the quantum that should be awarded to these families and it should not be cases that have to go to a court of law for determination because these are instances where it is clear that members of the Police Department, whether by action or inaction, caused the death of these four individuals.”
An internal and a criminal investigation has been launched and according to Minister Musa, half a dozen officers are being investigated and the possibility of criminal charges levied against them is high. In conceding that police officers are responsible, Minister Musa explained that the Uh Family will be allowed to appoint someone who will oversee the investigation and liaise with chief investigators Sr. Supt Romero and ASP. Gonzalez. Minister Musa explained that the investigation will be thorough and transparent.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “Statements have been recorded and from initially, the initial statements that police have gathered so far, the police has actually determined that six police officers, not necessarily all of them we can categorically state are guilty of any offence but there are six officers that are being questioned at the moment and certainly you can expect not just charges in terms of a criminal tribunal at the police level but also criminal charges in our court system. We have also extended the opportunity to the family of Derrick Uh for them to appoint a person of their choice to oversee the investigation as well to liaise with the chief investigators who are in this instance Senior Superintendent Romero and Assistant Superintendent Gonzales. Those are the two senior police officers from major crimes unit who are heading this investigation and we’re allowing the family the opportunity to appoint, whether it is an attorney or a Justice of the Peace, or someone who they think is fit to oversee hs investigation and like I said, to liaise with the senior investigators as this investigation moves forward.