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8 lawmen charged for murder Print E-mail
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Thursday, 01 March 2018 00:00

Police has arrested and charged 8 lawmen, 7 soldiers from the Belize Defense Force, and 1 from the police Special Patrol Unit, for the crimes of murder and attempted murder. These 8 are all officers who are attached to the BDF’s elite unit known as the Belize Special Assignment Group (or BSAG) as they are better known.

Those officers charged are 29 year-old Lennart Cajun, a police constable from Orange Walk Town that is assigned to BSAG; and the 7 BDF soldiers, which include 28 year-old Mateo Bolon, a resident of Jalacte, Toledo; 31 year-old Patrick Villagran Sr., a resident of Ladyville; 26 year-old Patrick Diego, a resident of Pomona Village; 33 year-old Elvis Cobb, a resident of San Victor Village; 26 year-old Edmar Petillo, a resident of Carmelita Village; 21 year-old Bladimir Escarraga, a resident of San Jose Village; and 23 year-old Francis Sho, a resident of Mountain View Belmopan.

Police investigators from Orange Walk and the Professional Standards Branch say that these officers went out on an unsanctioned, and unlawful raid at the home of 46 year-old Ariel Salazar, a resident of San Antonio Road in Orange Walk Town. Once there, some of these officers, who were wearing masks, brutalized and killed Salazar.

The police official version of events is that on Thursday, February 22, 2018, at around 10:40 a.m., officers from the Orange Walk station visited Salazar’s home. They found him severely beaten, and suffering from bruises to the abdomen and chest. He told them that at around 3:40 a.m., men wearing battle dress uniforms barged into his home and detained him. They started interrogating him about a cellular phone, and in the process of this raid, officers in these military uniforms put a beat down on him. Later that same day, Salazar succumbed to his injuries.

At the time of the raid, Salazar was in the company of his friends, Oscar Payes, Noe Sanchez, and a female friend. Sanchez granted an interview to the press in which he recounted how this raid took place. He said that someone knocked on the front door that morning, and seconds later, someone broke the door open. That’s when these BSAG lawmen barged into Salazar’s home and immediately ordered everyone to get down on the floor with their face down. These officers were allegedly armed with their service weapons. The officers were reportedly wearing masks over their faces, and as soon as the occupants of the house complied with the order to get down on the ground, that’s when the men in informs started shouting questions at them about some cellular phone. Apparently, a woman informed the officers that her cellular phone was missing, and so, the officers went looking for it at Salazar’s house.

Having investigated the case for the Professional Standards Branch, Assistant Police Commissioner Chester Williams told the press that these officers had no lawful authority to have conducted that raid. It was properly the jurisdiction of the Orange Walk Police.

Williams said, “They surely acted criminally not only out of order, they acted criminally. If it is that the investigation reveals that they are really the ones who did it, then they will be dealt with criminally like any other person.”

At this time, the police have not been able to establish which of these officers actually inflicted the injuries that killed Salazar. Police say that they will do their best to try to determine this in their ongoing investigation into the murder.

The 8 lawmen were arraigned in the Orange Walk Magistrate’s Court for murder which they allegedly committed against Ariel Salazar, and attempted murder, which they allegedly committed against Oscar Payes. They have been remanded to the Belize Central Prison until April 18, their next court date.

In the meantime, the grieving family is not satisfied that police have made arrests. They want convictions.

Manuelita Salazar, sister of the deceased, told the press, “Right now I can’t say anything, because you could never tell what will happen. All I want is justice for my brother. Please, I want justice for what they did to my brother and I wish they would go to jail for life, because this is not fair.”