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Sep 26, 2017

Guns for Freedom?

Shayanne Castro

Police making a routine traffic stop in Belize City on Saturday encountered twenty-seven-year-old Shayanne Castro, a Port Authority clerk, and her husband Wasani, found no evidence of firearms or ammunition in their vehicle. But, spurred on by the suspicious behavior of the occupants, police were convinced that they were on to something, and that something, found on Sarstoon Street, turned out to be weed – twenty-six pounds of it.  Police now claim certain of Castro’s intimates tried to pervert the course of justice by stashing four guns found in just five hours on Sunday by the Special Assignment Team within the radius of the marijuana bust. But Castro’s family and attorneys say this was their attempt to honor their end of a secret deal with the police who busted the Castros. They insist that it was the police who went back on their word – and say that they can prove it. But as attorney Richard “Dickie” Bradley tells News Five’s Aaron Humes, there is more of this going on than some realize, and boundaries need to be set. We have more in the following report.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The family of twenty-seven-year-old Shayanne Castro, accused of possession of more than twenty-six pounds of suspected cannabis found at the Sarstoon Street residence to which she was taken on Saturday following a traffic stop, accuse police of setting her up. They say the young woman and her husband, Minister Edmond Castro’s son Wasani, were threatened with their freedom if they did not take a deal: give up high-powered weapons to avoid charges for the weed. Here is how one of Castro’s two defense attorneys, Marcel Cardona put it after Monday’s court appearance.

 

Marcel Cardona

Marcel Cardona, Attorney for Shayanne Castro [File: September 25th, 2017]

“The police then proceeded to enter into discussions with her through her attorney, etcetera, as to the possibility of if she were able to – through her friends, family and associates – if she were able to assist the police in putting off the streets a number of items that are used regularly to commit crimes and even murders, etcetera, if she were able to assist to get these things off the street they would be prepared to consider just moving on. They know, they know for a fact, that she does not live at the residence; and they know for a fact that she was only visiting, and they baited her. In fact, they were seeking to bait her husband also. They kept on telling the husband, “Come in, man; come in and see your wife; come in and see your wife…”

 

Reporter

“That’s Wasani Castro?”

 

Marcel Cardona

 “Yes, and the husband said in no uncertain terms, no, no, no; he was highly suspicious of their cordiality and their trying to invite him to come onto the premises or whatever, perhaps to just likewise charge him with the same charges that they have put on the wife at this point in time.”

 

The guns were recovered beginning on Saturday night on Lakeview Street, and continuing on Sunday on Sarstoon Street itself and on Mahogany and Sittee Streets. While Castro’s family is crying foul, they have insurance – audio recordings of the deal being made between Castro’s attorney and the police, though the latter deny it. While the recordings are being withheld as key evidence in Castro’s case, Castro’s other attorney, Richard “Dickie” Bradley, told News Five he sees more of this than people realize.

 

Richard “Dickie” Bradley

Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Attorney for Shayanne Castro

“That is nothing new. The Police have been conducting this operation in terms of the moment they pick up anybody, detain anybody, especially if they are in a position to bring charges, and that person feels under pressure – ‘boy, I wah get charge fi ah firearm, ah wah get charge for some weed,’ they would say to him [it’s] possible that we noh charge you if we could get another gun; or if they find some weed, if you could bring in a gun we might not charge you. They will tell you they won’t charge you because if a man feels he’s going to be charged, then why will he bring a gun? This is nothing new, this is going on; the problem with such a program, if it is a program, if it is being sanctioned by higher-ups it is being very poorly managed, and it is opening itself to extortion and to criminal activity and to corruption. I know for a fact that recently, like two, three weeks ago, it was reported to a high-ranking officer in Belmopan that in one of the districts, officers have been behind family members that they would not charge their family member if they could bring in certain amount of pounds of marijuana. And they released the person from police custody in an attempt for him to go out and assist them to get the amount of weed and when they couldn’t get it, they went back and picked him up again. But the people have the messages and the calls and they are hurt because they are all targeted and they were harassed the whole weekend – if unu noh bring the thing dis dah weh wah happen and so and so. So I know a report has been made in relation to that matter.”

 

Like Cardona, Bradley says Shayanne Castro is suffering primarily because of her married name. But, he adds, whether the accused is well-heeled or not, police cannot allow any advantage in such an established system for personal gain.

 

Richard “Dickie” Bradley

“If you think about it, if you try to take it a couple steps further, it would make sense that they can’t announce a program like that – the criminal elements will always have a gun or two in waiting to come and say, give me a run and I’ll give you a gun. But it is something that needs to be discussed in the high command of the Police Department, and they need to come forward to the public and say if there is a policy, because it will lead to some serious abuses. Because there are going to be rogue officers who will get weed, and not hand it in and report it, and use that as a form of hustling – pick up people and tell them bring a pound of weed and I’ll let you go. And people will do that to get their liberty.”

 

It nearly cost Shayanne Castro, now out on bail, hers. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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