Prime Minister John Briceno has made a public statement saying that he and his wife, the Special Envoy for Families and Children, Rossana Briceno are ensuring that all officers involved in the death of 14-year-old, Laddie Gillett is brought to justice. The statement, accompanied by an official release from the Special Envoy’s office noted, quote, “We call on Commissioner Williams to conduct a full investigation into Laddie’s death as a matter of urgency and to ensure those responsible are held accountable for their actions. No child should lose their life so tragically and no parent should have to experience such loss, particularly at the hands of those sworn to protect us.” End of quote. It took very little time to see the hands of justice at play as less than forty eight hours after Laddie Gillett was killed on the beach in Placencia Village, the shooter, Police Corporal was charged and summoned to court. News Director, Renee Trujillo has the story.
“#JusticeforLaddie” has been making its rounds on social media after the teenager met his demise with one gunshot to the back. Police Commissioner Chester Williams says the department has launched an internal and criminal investigation into the incident. That investigation has led to the arrest of 27 year old Police Corporal Kareem Martinez. The officer, a resident of Seine Bight Village Stann Creek district appeared before Magistrate Ed Usher in Belmopan this morning where he answered to a single charge of manslaughter. Representing the police officer in court was Attorney Hurl Hamilton.
Hurl Hamilton, Attorney: “He was offered bail in the sum of $8,000 or two sureties in the sum of $4,000. He is to report to the Dangriga police station on the 18th of October that’s the next court date.”
Enraged relatives, friends and members of the public have referred to the charge as a slap on the wrist. One of his guardians, Emil Bradley, was at the courthouse today and emerged disappointed after the arraignment.
Emil Bradley, Guardian: “It’s not what I was expecting. I mean we’ve waited, we wanted justice. I mean manslaughter I just don’t see it as a charge fit. From the time he picked up this gun and aimed at this kid and pulled trigger I mean that was intentionally don’t tell me that was not intentional. If he had tripped and then it went off and shot him that is different. I mean as you train justifiable force of harm where is that ? He he shot him in his bottom downwards you could have said he didn’t intend to kill him but just by pulling it all the way in his back ? It’s unacceptable. I would have expected at least murder I mean let the judge be the decider not Ms.Sherylnn let the judge decide what he deserves. I mean jump to a conclusion right away to manslaughter. It’s not the first time people have been charged for murder and then it drops to manslaughter right away it jumps to manslaughter and this is what is getting people frustrated in this country because of your political status or your status in society and you do things and you get away with it which is wrong and especially the policeman. So who should we look for if we don’t feel fair again with our own security forces ?”
The biological father, Eugene Neal, has also expressed dissatisfaction at the charge saying Laddie was just an innocent child with no criminal past.
Eugene Neal, Biological Father: “The little boy just ran away, wasn’t doing anything wrong and he was gunned down like an animal that’s the way I think about you know he didn’t think. All I want to say to him you took away my kid from me and I want justice but you know whatever they do to him I just want something come up for him, you know, that you killed an innocent child, a child that didn’t give problems, didn’t get in the police’s hands.”
With the heavy clamor for an upgrade in the charge against the police corporal or a remand to prison Attorney Hurl Hamilton impressed upon the media that the charge is manslaughter and the judgement should be left to the court.
Hurl Hamilton, Attorney: “This is the charge that was proffered and we plan to defend it. The police will do their investigation or the police will continue to do their investigation so let the process be. Let’s give Kareem Martinez due process so I wouldn’t want to get into the details of the case. The court will decide whether Mr.Martinez is guilty or not guilty but let us not jump to conclusion based on what we’re hearing or what we’ve known so far.”
And while the court will make the ultimate decision it does not take away from the fact that there is anger and there is upset.
Emil Bradley, Guardian: “These are the things that make people get rati and get out of hand and see things differently. I’m trying to keep my calm and everything together for right now but continuing like this now it won’t and I really don’t want us to go there. You know we live in a peaceful country in Belize but with these things happening people are tired of it. People are tired of becoming victims of police brutality and what is being done to it because it continues.”
As for the child’s biological mother, Linda Gillett, she also wants justice for her son.
Linda Gillett, Biological Mother: “What I want to say to the police is that I want legal rights and justice, that’s all. I don’t want no retaliation, no nothing because God up there is no sleeping. He killed an innocent child and all I am asking for is legal rights and justice. That’s all.”
But amid the need and the clamor for justice and harsher punishment for the police officer there still lies a glimmer of hope for forgiveness.
Emil Bradley, Guardian: “All he needs to do is come out, even if he’s not sorry just come out and say sorry to all of the family and the friends my action wasn’t right, it wasn’t my intention to kill him and then we understand, we can forgive people I mean to be living with that kind of energy is not something nice against somebody but at least come out and own up to your wrong doings.”
Police Corporal Martinez has been placed on interdiction from the Belize Police Department until the matter concludes in the courts.