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Mar 31, 2004

Cayo cop charged with attempted murder

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It’s another one of those good news/bad news situations. The bad news is that an increasing number of Belizean police officers are behaving no differently than the criminals they are supposed to bring to justice. The good news is that fewer cops seem to be getting away with it. The latest arrest of a policeman has occurred in San Ignacio. Thirty-one year old Corporal Julio Shal was today charged with attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, and possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. The charges arise from an incident in the wee hours of Tuesday morning when twenty-year-old Pedro Guzman was shot by an allegedly inebriated Shal. According to Guzman, he had been taken into custody by Shal on Saturday on suspicion of burglary, but was released on Monday evening for lack of evidence. Later that night, Guzman and some friends were standing outside a restaurant when three men he recognised as police officers, one of whom was Shal, drove up to where they were standing. What happened next was told by Guzman from his bed in the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.

Jacqueline Woods

Pedro Guzman says that P.C. Julio Shal appeared to be drunk when he approached him soon after he got out of the car.

Pedro Guzman, Junior, Shooting Victim

“When the police officers jumped out of the car, I recognized one as the corporal with a beer bottle in his hand in civilian clothes. And he walked over to me staggering and grabbed me and said if you run I will shoot you and he pulled out his gun and took me way back to his car where he was sitting in and put me in the back seat, and he told a uniform police to get into the back seat with me. Then he tell the driver to get in and he jump into the passenger side.”

Guzman says he did not know what the cops wanted to do, but thought maybe once again he was on his way back to the police station. But as soon as the vehicle started to move things took a turn for the worse. Guzman claims he could only watch as P.C. Shal pulled out a gun, pointed it at his head, and pulled the trigger.

Pedro Guzman

“When the driver start to drive off he grabbed his gun and face me and put it on my head and pulled the trigger.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Did he tell you anything?”

Pedro Guzman

“He never tell me nothing then. When he pulled the trigger, it jammed. He cocked it back again and put it back on my head and he said, you see this, and as soon as I put my hand front ah my face, he pulled the trigger again and that is when the shot fire off and he shot me in my hand. So then after that we still the drive and they never know he shoot me, but the uniform one see when he shot me and so I put it down, then we drive way down by the board bridge.”

Guzman says that’s when the driver offered him a thirty-eight revolver, which he believes if he had accepted the weapon they would have used it to explain that he had threatened their life and then claim self-defence.

Pedro Guzman

“I say, “No, I noh want no thirty-eight P.C.” He seh, “Well I wah give you one anyway”, I wah put one inna your hand. And they stop way down by the board bridge way down the hill and when they jump out I jump out and run home. I nevah run straight home, I run to these people’s yard and I mek lotta noise that the police the try kill me, the police the try kill me. So them they come out and one of my friends that I knew from that house give me a shirt fi wrap up my hand and then I run home.”

Lorraine Guzman says when she saw her son bleeding she could not believe what had happen and that it was a law enforcement officer that tried to murder him.

Lorraine Guzman, Pedro’s Mother

“I was sleeping of course at the time me and my little girl and I just came out and I saw this blood and stuff, he was in a taxi, and of course I was shocked, I was holding my head and didn’t know where to turn. After that I got dressed and took my son to the police station and then to the hospital.”

“I am just grateful that after he was shot still had his senses with him and made a run for it, because I wouldn’t be seeing him lying here in the hospital bed right now, I would have probably been burying him right now.”

Both mother and son believe Shal did not like the idea that the police released Guzman after he had been detained. But officer in charge of the San Ignacio police station, Gilroy Nicolas, says they had no reason to hold Guzman.

Gilroy Nicholas, O.C. San Ignacio Police Station

“Well it is not clear what he was picked up for, and that was my main reason why I decided to launch an immediate investigation into the matter, because nobody can tell me clearly why this man was picked up and for what reason. I asked them what happened and he said, “officer I don’t know.” That was his reply to me.”

“This is a definite damage to our image in San Ignacio because of our good working relationship with the populace on a whole here in San Ignacio and it puts a damper. One bad egg spoils the rest.”

Guzman says her son has been involved in petty incidents, but nothing to the extent that would drive a policeman to try and kill him.

Lorraine Guzman

“I just need to know that the officers involved are dealt with accordingly. And I will see to that, I will not rest until they are dealt with because my son is twenty years old and you could say crippled for life because he won’t be able to use his anymore. That’s common sense. He has a big hole in his hand, all the bones in between that is broken, there’s no bone there, there is nothing there, so of course he is crippled for life.”

According to the police, P.C. Shal, who was off duty, is claiming that Guzman threatened his life. The constable will get a chance to test that theory…when he testifies in his own defence.

Shal has been remanded to Hattieville prison until his next court appearance on April twenty-ninth.

In related news, another member of the San Ignacio branch of the Police Department, Corporal David Williams, has been selected as the nation’s police officer of the month.

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