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Sep 4, 2017

Armed Forces’ Military Tattoo Marred by Accidental Tear Gas Release

The Military Tattoo was back this year to display the readiness of the Belize Fence Force and the Police Department. Hundreds headed over to the Marion Jones Sporting Complex on Friday evening to view the exercise. All was going according to precision, when something went awfully wrong. Today, both agencies provided explanations as to why tear gas was inadvertently released. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

What was an otherwise first-rate simulation exercise conducted by the armed forces, after an almost decade-long hiatus, ended in bedlam on Friday night, as bleachers at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex were quickly abandoned amidst the burning sensation of tear gas.  Live explosions, the chatter of gunfire and soldiers fast-roping from a hovering chopper were all part of the activities, until a chemical agent was accidentally dispersed into the windy air.

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones, B.D.F. Commander

“When the smoke was getting into the audience, my first reaction was this was horrible.  It was a shock.  I didn’t expect it and we sincerely apologize for it.  However, the item that the police used to fire on that particular night was the factory made smoke canisters that were sold to the police department.  There are rare occurrences where even from the factory there are errors and it appears at this moment there was an error from the factory.”

 

After an eight-year pause, the event was en route to making a triumphant return as a staple during the annual September Celebrations.  That manufacturing slip-up has proven embarrassing to the organizers of the Military Tattoo, including the Belize Police Department.

 

Noel Leal

ACP Noel Leal, Belize Police Department

“When it comes to tear gas, there is a component in there that makes your eyes watery, that gives you a burning effect and itchy effect and that was what was felt.  I felt it as well.  But it was only one, the rest were the genuine white smoke canisters.”

 

The sudden discharge of the riot control agent at the Marion Jones during this year’s September Celebrations harkens back to 2006, when a similar incident took place during the Carnival King and Queen Competition.  That cylinder contained what is known as CS gas, a chemical formula that causes tears, salivation and painful breathing.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“The police did indeed fire what they knew and expected to be smoke.  So they fired the correct canister, unfortunately there was some error, not from the police department, that caused this CS to have been emitted out to the public.  For final confirmation, we’ve taken the projectiles that were fired from the cartridges and we are going to ask the forensics department to have that final conclusion to say yes, the chemical component that is in the CS canisters was indeed present for those canisters that were fired.  So that we’ll find out from the forensics later.”

 

From Assistant Commissioner of Police Noel Leal’s vantage point, only a section of the audience was directly affected by the gaseous release.

 

ACP Noel Leal

“The position where I was seated on the bleachers, about one third of the people, mostly on the western side moved towards the bathroom, but luckily the breeze, because I saw the smoke going up, luckily the breeze was carrying it up as well.  So, like where I was, we got the tail end of it, very little bit.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Does this raise concerns for future events where these kinds of munitions are discharge, that there may be any other biochemical agent other than what you guys would have purchased?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“It will of course raise concerns, but as what I have said, that particular type of ammunition will not be used in the next upcoming tattoo at all, because we will not accept that being used.  Something else will need to be used, even if we have to use it from the B.D.F. because our ones have been used on the day and there are no issues with the ones from the B.D.F.  So the police will not be able to use those munitions for the next upcoming tattoo.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “Armed Forces’ Military Tattoo Marred by Accidental Tear Gas Release”

  1. SAMCRO says:

    Manufacturing error my ass. These idiots can’t tell the difference between a smoke canister and tear gas? And we rely on these clowns to protect and defend this country?? What a joke, the BDF is a laughing stock.

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