Late night shooting in San Pedrito: toddler killed, mother in critical condition

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

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A toddler is dead, while his mother remains in a critical but stable condition, after they were shot while sleeping inside their apartment building. The victims are two-year-old Charlie Daniel “Danny” Espat and 33-year-old Aleyda Sandoval, both of an unnamed street in the San Pedrito Area of San Pedro Town. The two were at home sleeping when at least 10 shots were fired toward the direction of their apartment around 1:45AM on Tuesday February 24th.

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According to Officer in Charge of the San Pedro Police Formation, Superintendent of Police Luis Castellanos, Aleyda Sandoval, Daniel Espat and her common-law- husband Rolando “Roli” Espat were at home sleeping in their apartment room located on the ground level of a two storey wooden structure. Sometime around 1:45AM, they woke up to the sound of several loud bangs after which Sandoval realized she and her baby had been shot.

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Rolando Espat, who has lost four children to gun violence, said that he is confused, heartbroken and at a loss for words. “I was asleep when I heard the gunshots. The first thing I did was to try and cover my kid because he was in the middle and my wife was in the corner of the bed. I tried covering both of them with my body. I threw myself over them but everything happened so fast. I heard several shots, perhaps 10. When the shots stopped I asked, is everybody ok, and she said the baby is not moving,” recalled Espat as he wiped his tears. He added that when he put on the light, he discovered his son on the bed in a pool of blood, and his wife was bleeding.

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According to a neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, she was awaked by the shots, one of which landed inside her apartment. Following the shooting, she heard Espat and Sandoval yelling for help and that is when she came out. The neighbor said that she managed to assist the three and drove them to the Dr Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic II for treatment.
“When we arrived at the clinic, we saw the medical officer on duty, attending to the toddler who had gunshot wounds to the head. Shortly after the toddler was pronounced dead… We also observed the mother of the child, suffering from what appeared to be gunshot injuries to the left hand and the bullet apparently had penetrated into her back,” said Castellanos. Charlie Daniel Espat was observed with two gunshot wounds to the head, and he died while undergoing treatment.

Who would want to kill a two-year-old toddler? Both police and Rolando Espat are of the belief that the intended target was not the baby. “I heard rumors that they are after me. Six months ago, my older son was shot and killed and now my baby son. It is very hard for me to be dealing with this entire situation,” said Espat. He told the media that he has provided police with the necessary information as part of their investigation. “I don’t want to go in details as to who I suspect wants me dead, but the police has this information. I am leaving it into the hands of the police and God. I don’t want revenge but I want justice by the hands of the police,’ said Espat.

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While police have not established a motive for the shooting, they do believe they may be the same criminals who shot and injured 13 year old Meredith Escalante on February 11th in the apartment next to the Espats. Police are also looking at the possibility that it can be related to another shooting in which a man was shot and injured on February 9th in the same neighborhood. “At the crime scene, police recovered five expended slugs and one expended 9MM round… We do not have a clear motive at this time but we are investigating and trying to find out what are the motives for this shooting. At this time we have a 16-year old male detained and he is being questioned by investigators.” Part of the walls of the apartment building and the entrance to Espat’s apartment was observed with at least 10 bullet holes, all in the direction of the bed in which the child and his parents slept. While some of the bullets hit the refrigerator before penetrating the entire apartment, some found their mark on Sandoval and baby Espat.

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Castellanos said that following last week’s shooting, the San Pedro Police Department has stepped up its police patrol. He indicated that the patrol was boosted by the presence of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) who has maintained a visible presence on the island for the past two weeks. “We have emphasized to our officers that they must make San Pedrito Area, an area of concern in order to conduct regular patrols… In fact, let me say that I picked up a police officer who was off duty, and I personally went into the area sometime around 11:30PM, hours before the shooting, to do a patrol because I know it is an area of concern. This shooting happened in the wee hours of the morning, a time when our patrol would be less in the area, so to say we are not doing enough is unfair,” explained Castellanos. The officer said that while human and vehicular resources are limited, it is not an excuse for the police not maintaining a presence. He did say however, that while Police have beefed up their patrol “the criminals are always one step ahead of the police.”

As a result of the shooting Sandoval was transported by air to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) where she is listed in a critical but stable condition. Family members say that she is expected to undergo surgery to remove a bullet that is lodged in her back which is affecting her lungs. Meanwhile the body of baby Daniel Espat was transported to the KHMH morgue where a post mortem examination is expected to be conducted sometime this week.

“I am pleading that if any member of the community has any information, for them to please come forward. If they need to see me personally they can come, but we need to solve this crime,” said Catellanos.

Anyone with information that can assist the police in solving the murder of 2-year-old Charlie Daniel Espat is asked to call Crime Stoppers Belize at 0-800-922-TIPS (8477). All tips will remain absolutely confidential, as calls are answered by professionally trained personnel based in the US.

NOTICE from The San Pedro Police Formation:

Please be informed that you’re cordially invited to a community meeting that will be held at the San Pedrito Park on Thursday February 26, 2015 at 6:00PM.
Organized by the San Pedro Police Department, this meeting is in order to discuss current social issues, and your voices will be heard. Your presence will play a vital role in the rehabilitation of the San Pedrito Community.

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