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Sep 5, 2005

Bullets fly in Belmopan attempted robbery

Story PictureIf you just read the police report you’d think the failed robbery in the nation’s capital was just another routine jacking. But even though no money was taken, nor lives lost, the videotapes in this next story tell a frightening tale of what might have been.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Today, it was business as usual at the BUCA Shell gas station in Belmopan, but a brazen robbery attempt on Friday night has left employees traumatised and the perpetrators still on the run. Security cameras, installed a month ago by Shell, captured the surreal events of the night.

The footage obtained by News Five and played in slow motion, reveals it was a busy night at the station. A Shell tanker truck, filled with six thousand gallons of fuel is waiting to be discharged… and several motorists, including a police car, are gassing up at the pumps.

According to the camera’s time code, the police car drives off the Shell compound at 7:58. Just two minutes later, two men, unmasked, but armed with a nine millimetre handgun casually walk into the frame.

Inside the station’s convenience store, thirty-five year old J.B. Wade is buying a phone card and talking to the clerk and the tanker’s driver. They have no idea what’s happening behind them.

Outside, the gunman and his accomplice attack the male attendant first, punching him and pushing him to the ground. The bandit chases the fleeing attendant, but then he spots pump supervisor Shirley Avila standing near the tanker. Out of the camera’s range, the man starts to choke the woman and demands money. Standing near the pump, the gunman fires off two shots towards the tanker. That gets Wade’s attention, who turns to see Avila in trouble. Wade runs to her rescue, but he doesn’t see the armed man to his right. Avila is released by her captor, but four more shots are fired…one finding its mark in Wade’s right thigh. He takes cover in the drain.

Their robbery gone awry, the assailants head towards Culvert Road to escape, but would fire yet another shot at the frightened employees attempting to reach safety through a rear door at the back of the building. The bullet ricochets off the cement wall.

A bleeding Wade is rushed to the hospital, his Ford Explorer almost colliding with a Dragon Unit patrol vehicle, the first to respond to the scene. In the next three minutes, three more police cars pull up. Only then would the employees, locked up in the dark store, venture back outside.

Today, Wade, still recovering from gunshot wounds to his leg, says when he realised what was happening, it was pure reflexes that took over.

J.B. Wade, Gunshot Victim
“As a matter of what was going through my mind, actually at that time, nothing, it was just a matter of cold, instinct reaction and in fear for somebody else’s life and trying to be a good Samaritan I guess.”

“I did not realize that there was a second person, so I just took off to that one person that attacked her thinking that this was the person that was doing all the shooting and everything. And by him running away from me, I thought that he was scared of me, not realising that there was somebody behind me who was then shooting at me. I heard the first gunshot go off and didn’t realise it was aimed at me and at then the second gunshot connected with my leg, I felt it, it was just a little surge to my leg. I felt I could still running, so I kept on running but in so doing, the guy continued shooting and then I realized he was aiming at me and still shooting at me and that’s when I decided to take cover and tried to protect myself.”

According to owner Matthew Hulse, this is the seventh such attack at the BUCA Shell gas station in Belmopan, the most recent occurring two years ago. Tonight Hulse is calling on city and police officials to work with the business community to make Belmopan safe.

Matthew Hulse
“I must commend the police on their excellent response. That was real good, I can’t complain about that part. Apart from that, to my customers, they don’t have to worry everything is back in order and the police promise to beef up security so things will be much better in the coming future and we’ll also put other things into place.”

“I think from experience, especially on the police side, it’s the same group of people doing these things over and over, terrorising everybody around the area. From what the police have said so far, it’s criminal elements from right around Roaring Creek and Camalote, right around the Belmopan area, so they got to crack down on them.”

For all their attempts, nothing was stolen in the attack. Investigating officers in Belmopan tell News Five that three people have been detained for questioning in connection with Friday’s incident but up to news time, no one had been charged with the crime. As for what can be done to prevent such robberies Wade suggests a transition to self-service pumps, especially after dark.

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