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Nestor Vasquez killed by detainee in Queen Street police station Print E-mail
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Friday, 14 June 2019 00:00

Police Sergeant Shawn Walton, and Constables Edward Pitterson and Bernard Cayetano are facing a criminal and internal investigation after a civilian died in their custody. The victim, 60 year-old Nestor Vasquez Jr., was savagely beaten to death by another detainee, 28 year-old Collin Francis. Both Vasquez and Francis suffered mental illness, and so, this terrible incident has sparked a conversation about the proper police detention and care for other mentally ill persons.

The incident happened on Thursday, June 6th, 2019, at around 2:15 p.m. at the Precinct 3 police station in Belize City. Sergeant Walton, who was the executive duty officer at the time, was informed about a fight between Vasquez and Francis, who were both being held in police custody in cell number 2. He found Vasquez on the floor bleeding profusely from his face, which was swollen in different areas, and a cut wound to the head.

Vasquez was rushed to the KHMH, where the doctors attempted to save his life. Unfortunately, he passed away from brain trauma while undergoing treatment on Saturday, June 8th.

Police say that Francis was detained for attempted murder, while Vasquez was detained for common assault, and that the 3 officers on-duty knew that both men were patients of mental illness. They were placed in the same cell, and during their detention, Francis attacked Vasquez, and beat him nearly to death.

Jules Vasquez, Nestor’s brother, who is well-known to as the News Director of Channel 7 News, commented on behalf of his grieving family about the attack.

Vasquez said, “He was beaten mercilessly to his head. His face was crushed and a post mortem this morning found that he died of blunt force trauma… He had no injuries below the neck; it was all concentrated on his head which was literally disassembled… The post-mortem was conducted today, and what happened is that eventually his brain just could not tell his organs to work anymore.”

Discussing the circumstances of Nestor’s detention, Jules said, “My brother had been having an acute episode, he is mentally ill and has been having an acute episode for about a week… He displayed certain behavior that wasn’t safe for our family, and I had to ask the police to detain him on Monday because, regrettably, detention is the only way many mentally ill people can access the care they need to calm them down… The officers on duty made a critical, critical error that costed my brother his life. They put him in the same cell with Mr. Collin Francis who was awaiting charges for attempting murder for Nurse Elijio. The first thing, Mr. Francis should not have been in that cell, because he should have been taken to the court from that morning and if not he should have gone in prison bus at 1pm…”

Hours after the incident, the police press office sent out a release, which said, “Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, condemned this gross act of negligence on the part of the officers concerned. He has since ordered both a criminal and internal investigation into this incident.”

When the press asked him about the case during a press conference Williams said, “We have our protocols that govern the cell block area, and from what the investigation is showing so far, there was a clear breach of our cell block protocol and so the officers who were on duty at that particular time have since been placed on disciplinary charges and have been interdicted from duty on half pay… I think it is time that we begin to have a discussion over how the police is to treat and keep prisoners who suffer from some mental disability, with a view to ensure that there is no recurrence of this incident… I have directed my finance officer as well as the commander of management service… to see how we can prepare one of our cell blocks in such a way that we will be able to keep prisoners who suffer from mental disabilities, in such a way that they would not be able to cause serious injuries to themselves or others… We will be looking at other cell blocks across the region, or the world to see how it is structured. It might require us padding a cell block… We also need to look at how they can have more available nurses who deal with mental patients to be able to work in collaboration with the police in situations like these…  I know that this whole thing with Mr. Vasquez does not sit well with the public and neither does it sit well with us. One would expect that the last place their loved one would die would be at the police station and when the system fails the people, then it does calls for concern and as the commissioner, I have said that there will be no cover ups. We are going to be transparent with this matter, and the chips are going to fall where they may.”

Nestor Vasquez Jr., is named after his father, Nestor Senior, who readers may know as the BTL Chairman. Nestor Senior also serves in other key posts, which includes being a member of the Integrity Commission.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2019 12:35