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No justice for the family of Allyson Major Jr says Police Minister

Tonight, public outrage is mounting as the cop that was accused of firing the bullet that killed Allyson Major Jr. has been acquitted of all charges. You will recall the tragic incident in July 2019 when Major was shot by police during a pursuit in downtown Belize City. The incident ended with Major coming to a screeching halt behind a bus near the Swing Bridge after he was allegedly shot once to the head by Police Corporal Kent Martinez. Yesterday, after three years Martinez’s trial came to an end in the Supreme Court before Justice Ricardo O’Neal Sandcroft. Martinez who was with manslaughter by negligence left the court free of that charge. Vejea Alvarez has the story. 

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I have no doubt in my mind, not a single doubt, that the police killed Allyso Major.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: And, that sentiment expressed by the Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, is one that is being echoed throughout the country as the cop accused of killing Allyson Major Jr. is now a free man. Now the question on everyone’s mind is how did the crown fail in prosecuting Kent Martinez? It is alleged that on July 16, 2019, Major was pursued by police officers on mobile patrol. One the police officers was Corporal Martinez, who investigators say fired the fatal shot. 

Oscar Selgado, Attorney: “The crown was relying upon the ballistics examination from the National Forensic Science Laboratory to prove its case that in fact Allyson Major was shot and killed by Corporal Kent Martinez whilst in the execution of his duties. Basically the crown’s evidence by bringing manslaughter by negligence is that Kent Martinez owed a duty of care to Allyson Major and that he breached that duty of care by firing recklessly or negligently upon the vehicle in which Mr.Major was traveling.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: According to Martinez’s attorney, Oscar Selgado, the prosecution was unable to provide ballistic evidence to prove that the bullet that killed Major was fired by Kent Martinez or any other police officer for that matter.

Oscar Selgado, Attorney: “The crown could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and I made a no case submission on the ground that it was a principle of law that the judge had to stop the case. When a no case submission is made when the evidence taken at it’s highest is so weak and tenuous that any jury properly directed could not properly convict on it it would have been unsafe to put that kind of evidence to the jury.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: But that wasn’t the only piece evidence the crown had in their arsenal. According to Musa, who was the Attorney hired by Major’s family for a civil suit against the government, the court did not allow a crucial piece of evidence to be summited. A video that he says showed a cop leaning out of a police mobile and raising his service weapon in Major’s direction.

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I don’t know the quality of evidence that was offered in the criminal trial but what I do know is that a critical piece of evidence being the video recording was not admitted into evidence and so I would hope that the DPP would explore the possibility and take a very hard and serious look to see whether there was an error in law in denying the admissibility of that particular piece of evidence.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: After looking at the evidence that was submitted, Presiding Supreme Court Justice Ricardo O’Neal Sandcroft directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty after concluding that the evidence presented by the prosecution was not sufficient to find Martinez guilty. The ruling now leaves the question: if not the police then who?

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I do not think a civilian was standing on the street side that day and fired a shot at Allyson Major. I do not think that. And so we have to take a long and hard look at the statements that were given by the officers in this incident to see if they gave full account for themselves and what they were doing at the time Alllyson was shot and for us to come to  a determination as to who shot him and who played a part in pursuing Allyson but when you look at all the circumstances like I said you will come to the very same conclusion that I have: the police killed Allyson Major. A fleeing individual, the police killed him. You will come to that same conclusion or else they would have charged a bystander or a civilian for doing so wouldn’t they? But they did not.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: For Major’s family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances the ruling came as a blow to their withering wounds. And, to make matters worse the civil case in which they claim Major was unlawfully killed continues to collect dust somewhere in the courts.

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “I shudder whenever I think of the fact that Dean Barrow just took a civil case the other day and he already has a judgment from the Supreme Court of Belize but yet this particular case of Allyson Major in the civil courts has yet to even receive a case management date and so I would hope that the justice system could put some sort of priority on this case. It’s been two years since that case has been filed.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love FM News: Reporting for Love News I am Vejea Alvarez.

While Martinez’s case in the courts is now behind him, Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, says the cop’s troubles are not over. Following the incident in which Allyson Major Jr. was killed the police department did not levy any internal charges against Martinez or the other officers involved. According to Musa, not only was that a failure on the part of the police department but also on the former administration. Today, Musa told Love News that even though the incident occurred almost three years ago it is his hope that Martinez and the other officers will now face internal disciplinary charges for their actions.

Kareem Musa, MInister of Home Affairs: “Why is it that he was no charged, this officer was not charged disciplinarily under the last administration that’s a huge question. We know when Laddie Gillett was murdered … was killed down in Placencia immediately the department took disciplinary action against the officer and he was sent home while his case is pending. The question is why did the department not take any action back then three years ago against this officer or these officers ? Like I said it was not just one officer chasing after Allyson Major maybe it was one officer who shot him but several vehicles were in chase of Allyson Major that day and so we have to look at that and to see who should be charged. It’s not too late for that to charge them tribunal because the last message that I would want to send even though this did not happen under our term in office the very last message that I would want to send as minister is that it is okay for you to kill someone unjustifiably like this and then the following day be able to walk on the streets in your uniform again. That is not acceptable not while I’m minister that will not happen. And so we are going to get to the bottom of this. Like I said it’s regrettable that under the last administration he was not charged and it’s not too late to charge him or other officers now for this very serious violation.

Reporter: Given that Mr.Martinez was not internally charged is there a case for him to now seek compensation from the government for being away from duty during that period ? 

Kareem Musa, MInister of Home Affairs: “Ordinarily I would say that it is the case when you are placed on interediction and no charges have been levied against you in terms of a tribunal but like I said moving forward since the last administration did not change him in ternally it is my hope that the police can investigate this matter internally and like I said find out who is culpable and bring charges against them. In a scenario like that you will not receive all your benefits if it is that you are found culpable by a tribunal so that is something separate that we’ll have to look at moving forward.”