Sunday, April 21, 2024

Commissioner of Police visits Santa Familia Village following Jessie Escobar’s death

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Villagers of Santa Familia Village in the Cayo District met with the Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams outside of Branch Mouth Stop and Shop, where resident and off-duty Belize Defence Force soldier 29-year-old Jessie Escobar was shot dead on Sunday, September 5th. Private. R. Valencia, the shooter, is a BDF soldier and a colleague attached to the joint police patrol led by Police Constable (PC) Juan Carlos Morales.

ComPol Williams was accompanied by other senior officers of the Belize Police Department and spoke with some of the upset villagers and Escobar’s relatives. Escobar’s mother said that she feels relieved after speaking with Williams. According to her, ComPol promised to investigate the matter, do justice, and punish those responsible for the shocking act that ended with her son’s life. The villagers and Escobar’s family ask for a Murder charge for BDF soldier Valencia, who shot Escobar in the chest at close range in front of his wife and 4-year-old daughter. The ordeal was captured in surveillance footage that went viral on social media.

Escobar’s mother told Williams that the incident had left a mark on the little girl. She is now afraid of police officers and BDF soldiers. Williams condemned the incident and shared that the evidence shown in the footage is critical and will be used against the shooter. According to him, all proof compiled will be forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine the case. “I emphasized the point that, from what we saw on the video, it is an unjustified shooting. There was nothing that we can do or say to try and justify that,” said Williams. He said the Police Department would do their part, properly investigate and deliver on what the people are asking, justice.

Villagers had been protesting and even blocked the main road of the village and set afire. Although this is illegal, ComPol said no one would be prosecuted as he sympathizes with the pain friends and relatives of the deceased are going through. However, he said that there is an ongoing investigation to find the person(s) responsible for burning down the house of PC Morales. The act is considered a retaliation towards Morales, and charges will be levied against the perpetrators.

PC Morales’ house burnt down

To settle things down in the village, Williams said that BDF soldiers would be excluded from the police patrols in Santa Familia. He noted that BDF should not be part of police-community operations. Still, it is almost impossible for the police to operate on its own because of the lack of workforce and because the BDF has the adequate firearms needed to combat transnational crimes like drug trafficking.

Jessie Escobar

The fatal incident and warning for other police officers

In a statement made by PC Morales, who led the police patrol with Private R. Valencia and Corporal R. Alcose, the team attempted to detain some men at Branch Mouth Stop and Shop in Santa Familia for not wearing their masks properly and public drinking. According to his report, an altercation ensued, and one of the men tried to throw a pint bottle at the officers. A warning shot was then fired. Morales continued in the report to say that Escobar approached Private. R. Valencia and threatened to take away his weapon. When Escobar tried to do so, Valencia fired a single shot hitting Escobar. This statement proved inaccurate after the footage of the incident showed a different scenario.

ComPol said that Morales lied in his statement and would fall under the act of prejudice to good order and discipline, and he will be charged. Williams took the opportunity to remind other department members that once they find that others are lying in official statements, they will face the consequences.

 

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