Trial for Laddie’s death Commences in Dangriga
The trial against Kareem Martinez, the police officer who fatally shot Laddie Gillett in July 2021, began this morning. Laddie was shot and killed on July 14, 2021 while on a beach in Placencia Village. The accused is a police officer and his name is Kareem Martinez. He was charged with manslaughter and this morning he pleaded not guilty to the charge. It was an emotional day for the victim’s family who felt intimidated by the heavy police presence at the court today. Two witnesses were called to the stand including Laddie’s best friend who was with him the moment he was fatally shot. Vejea Alvarez has the report.
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: After a year and a half after allegedly shooting 14-year-old Laddie Gillett dead today former Police Corporal Kareem Martinez appeared in the Dangriga Supreme Court before Justice Antionette Moore. The ex-cop and his attorney Oscar Selgado arrived just after eight o’clock at the courthouse which was under heavy police guard, a measure that Laddie’s family found to be unnecessary and a bit intimidating.
Lucy Flemming, Grandmother, Laddie Gillett: ‘I was quite shocked to tell you the truth. I thought oh my goodness here is someone who took down a 14-year-old boy being protected by big policemen with armaments it did seem quite unfair to me you know in the grand scheme of things.”
Emil Bradley, Laddie’s Father: “We’re trying to settle this as peacefully as possible but they know what they did and they know why they’re expecting what they’re expecting why they come out in such numbers but at this point time we noh deh pan that, wi noh deh fi give trouble mek I say it in kriol. Wi noh di give trouble right now, we just wah listen and make justice take it’s course you know ?”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: In court the Crown was represented by Senior Counsel Javier Chan who is being assisted by Attorney Richard Dickie Bradley. The trial commenced shortly after ten o’clock and saw Martinez pleading not guilty to the manslaughter charge, a decision that according to Laddie’s father Emil Bradley shows the ex cop is still not sorry for his alleged actions.
Emil Bradley, Laddie’s Father: “I mean if he had really cared about what he did or was sorry about what he did he would have contacted the family by some means his uncle did it there’s ways he could have contacted us and at least said he was sorry or something like that but so far nothing and then come back and plea not guilty it makes me think that you’re not sorry of what you did, you’re not sorry for what you did your actions.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News:The prosecution’s first witness was Pablo Mai a crime scene technician who canvassed the scene on that dreadful night on July 14, 2021. Mai was able to identify several key pieces of evidence including the expended shell that was found at the scene, pictures of the scene and the face mask. The prosecution’s second witness, Thomas Palacio, then took the stand. Palacio was Laddie’s best friend and was with him on the night he was killed. Palacio recounted the details of that night to the court and was then cross examined by Selgado. Selgado suggested to Palacio that on that night he and Laddie were illegally trying to enter the compound of the Placencia Beach Club but Palacio did not agree. Gillett’s father says the attorney’s questions were somewhat misleading and concerning.
Emil Bradley, Laddie’s Father: But yes there’s some concerning questions that his attorney Mr.Selgado has brought up. I know exactly where he’s trying to head and little things like these, these little technicalities are things that cause them to get off so I’m a bit worried. Like I said I see where he’s going. It’s young but I see what he’s trying to get at.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: In the afternoon the prosecution called Devon Castillo the security guard who called the police that night, to the stand. Castillo who is an exBDF soldier told the court that he knew Martinez for over thirty years and was able to identify him as one of the police officers who responded that night. He says that he called the police on Laddie and his two friends because he felt threatened and after the second call to the police they responded. Castillo says moments after he heard the gunshot and rushed to the scene where he would later assist the police in placing Laddie’s body in the back of their police mobile. Martinez was then cross examined by Selgado before today’s session ended. Gillett’s family says that while the trial has just commenced they’re hoping that Martinez is not tried on a lesser charge or escapes jail time.
Lucy Flemming, Grandmother, Laddie Gillett: “And that was what we wouldn’t be surprised if we hear for a lesser plea bargain and that would not really justice as far as we’re concerned that he can walk away with just a fine having been free these eighteen months while Laddie lies cold in his grave. So really at the end of the day we would like to see at least do some jail time, at least be tried and convicted or manslaughter, that is our hope.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: And to ensure that their chances of achieving justice are maximized Flemming says they found it fit to hire Senior Counsel Bradley to assist the prosecution.
Lucy Flemming, Grandmother, Laddie Gillett: “Well I think he’ll be a guide actually for the attorney and for ourselves. You know he’s a very experienced attorney, he’s very wise so we know him, we’ve known him with Richard Foster he assisted us with that case and so he actually said look I’m prepared to help you and he came to us and did offer his assistance to us and we agreed that he would be the best possible person to have on our side at this point in time.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: During the duration of the trial eight of eighteen witnesses will take the stand, two recorded interviews done at the police station in Placencia Village will also be used along with numerous photos taken from the scene on that night and on the following morning. The trial continues on Monday but for now Gillett’s family says they are relieved that their journey to justice may soon be coming to an end.
Emil Bradley, Laddie’s Father: “It’s a big relief to know that it started after such a long time. So far it’s going good. So far we cannot say at this point in time if it will really favor us I mean it’s too early to say but we’ll just wait for the outcome and see what happens.”
The trial resumes on Monday and we’ll have an update then.