Police to Lay Charges on Haitian/American Shooter at Market Plaza

Police to Lay Charges on Haitian/American Shooter at Market Plaza

Police are looking to lay charges this week on 59-year-old, Robert Joseph, the Haitian/American who was detained yesterday after unleashing bullets inside the Market Plaza compound.  News Director Renee Trujillo reports on the incident that claimed the lives of a woman and a child.  Here is her report.

Johann Petkau, Uncle of Deceased: “It’s a terrible thing that’s what’s going through your mind. It’s a terrible thing that a child got shot at the marketplace, in front of a bunch of people. It’s shocking.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM: Aside from shocking it was surreal. With the thought and hope that 8-year-old Meghan Paqua* Classen and 44-year-old Laura Fiorito would get up and their injuries would have mirrored a movie scene. But that was not the case as the two bodies are at the morgue and the families are still trying to cope with the pain and trauma. Investigators have taken several statements trying to piece together a motive or a trigger that could have led to the shooter’s public assault.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “We are trying to see how we can come up with a definitive motive. From what we have gathered so far from persons who were in the immediate area when the shooting happened is that the accused person arrived at the market, had a discussion with the family who he eventually targeted where he was accusing them of attempting to poison him. We have also learned that the victims had rented a house as the accused does own an Air BnB rental and the victim had rented a house from him for a period of six months. They left that house I think in the month of January and they moved to the Agua Viva area. So he was saying that the time that they rented from him that they were trying to poison him.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM:: Perhaps another word to describe what happened yesterday inside the Belmopan Market Plaza is unsuspecting. Witnesses say that the accused shooter walked casually towards the Paradise Ice Cram Shop, spoke briefly with the owner Ronaldo Logan and then moved over to his targets engaging in a calm and casual conversation.

Ronaldo Logan, Owner, Paradise Ice Cream Shop: “The guy that did the shooting passed by me and I hailed him and told him “man who is the rooms, the hotel.” he said “good good.” I said “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” and just walked on. But the couple was sitting over there on the table and you know they got up, shook hands, they got up they were like regular little conversation. The guy asked them “You haven’t started building yet.” the man told him “No, no. We haven’t started building yet.” You know they didn’t even raise their voice, they didn’t give anybody like a warning that they would do something like that.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM: Moments later the sounds of gunshots overtook the marketplace as the shooter first shot the woman and then intently pursued the little girl and 7-year-old Tristan Lopez who were both trying to dodge him. The unarmed business owner yelled at the shooter, appealing for him to stop but the gunman seemed intent as vendors and visitors scrambled hoping not to get hurt in the process. Not very long after the terror of an uncontained shooter ended as one Corporal Aleem Lopez passing by along with residents were able to subdue him.

Ronaldo Logan, Owner, Paradise Ice Cream Shop: “After he shot here he gone chased after the kids in the playground and while we were exchanging words, I was trying to tell the guy man hold it down you already did foolishness you know, I was cursing a lot. Lucky enough when he was doing all of that and I was back and forth with the guy cussing up and trying to get him to surrender his firearm a police guy was in the area and the police guy, I have to say thanks to the man he did a real good job he walked up telling the man that he is the police and to put down the gun so the guy ended up – when I saw him walking towards me again that is when I ran behind a building and then the guy pretty much threw his firearm and that is how the police came up and then me and somebody else helped apprehend the man.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM: In the wake of the shooting 8-year-old was dead. Her little body was unresponsive and -placed in the back of a pickup truck. The injured boy was on the ground shrieking in pain and was placed next to Meghan in the truck both being taken to the Western Regional Hospital. In another vehicle was 11-year-old Sarah Lopez who also sustained injuries in the shooting. The two Lopez children were neighbors to Meghan and Fiorito and her husband Salvatore Lopez were doing a favor by picking up Meghan from school along with their two children. The little girl’s uncle, Yohan Paqua* is angered by the incident and couldn’t  bring himself to say much about Meghan. 

Johann Petkau, Uncle of Deceased:My brother’s daughter Meghan was picked up by their neighbor, it seems that’s the arrangement they have with their neighbor where they would drop of children and taking turns right? They’re neighbors so they’re taking turns and dropping off and picking them up. So their neighbor picked up the children from school yesterday, they decided to pass by this place to have a treat for the children. The children were playing in the playground when a man that they know very well, call it his friend, approached him, shook his hand and started to shoot.”

Reporter: As their uncle, what can you tell us about just her personality, the kind of person she was ? 

Johann Petkau, Uncle of Deceased: “I wouldn’t want to answer that question.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM: The Commissioner of Police has confirmed that the husband of the deceased was not hit in the shooting. As for the investigation Commissioner Williams says the police are confident of a solid case going forward.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: ” There was a fourth person who was shot at, a male, who is the husband of the woman who died but he was able to escape unhurt. We have obtained a number of statements and have also obtained some video footage that is helping investigation pretty good. The accused as you know was immediately detained by the police and the weapon used in that particular crime was also located by the police and so we believe that we have a very good case going forward.”

Renee Trujillo, News Director, Love FM: Meghan Paqua Klassen was shot to the left side of the chest. Fioretti was shot twice once to the chest and once to the rib cage area. Sarah Lopez was shot to the right arm while Tristan Lopez was shot to the hip. The man detained in the shooting is 59-year-old Robert Joseph, a Haitian American business owner. Love News understands that police will be charging him later this week.

Mayor Pablo Cawich has spoken on yesterday’s double homicide, saying that his new council will work hard at citizen security.  

Pablo Cawich, Belmopan Mayor: “The visit to the family was to express my condolences on the incident and also to try and see if there is any way that I or the city can assist. It is a time that we wish no one to go through. It is difficult to lose a family member and more importantly it’s even more difficult to lose a child. Yes we will be – that’s part of our plans for this present council. We do intend to have a closer relationship with the police department. We haven’t had any discussions as yet with the police as you rightfully mentioned we were just inaugurated as the official council yesterday and the ceremony was actually interrupted with the news of the market incident. I have to schedule a meeting with the hierarchy of the police department so that I can see how we can improve our relationship and our collaboration.”

Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children, Rosanna Briceno also weighed in on the brutal loss of life in Belmopan.

Rossana Briceno, Special Envoy for the Development of Families and Children: “I don’t know the details and if this man was there to – if they were targets something is terribly wrong. There has to be something there but I’m not justifying that because that should have never happened in our community, in Belmopan in the market putting other people at risk. But it’s horrible. It’s not something that we want to happen over and over in Belize. It should not become a norm. Definitely not.”

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