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Jan 15, 2018

Mario Vernon Shot Dead by Police in Cloud of Mystery

Mario Vernon

A well-known resident was shot dead over the weekend in Punta Gorda.   Mario Vernon, the grandson of the late Leela Vernon, was shot by a cop and there are differing accounts on what went awfully wrong on Saturday night. The official report is that police fired at him when he pointed what appeared to be a firearm at the officer. Witnesses in the area, however, say Vernon was not armed when he was shot to the head by an officer who was reportedly under the influence. Following a verbal altercation earlier in the day, he was pursued by the cops to an abandoned lot. After the deadly shooting, his body was dragged for about a hundred feet and then dumped into the pan of police vehicle leaving a trail of blood behind.   The family also believes that a firearm found at the scene was planted there by officers after the shooting. Another disturbing report is that the police rounded up various persons who had captured the horrible incident on cell phone and deleted the telling images.  The officer-involved shooting has stirred anger in the community.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Tevin Aranda

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Was the shooting death of twenty-four-year-old Mario Vernon an intentional act of murder? Many in Punta Gorda, including the family of the slain young man, are of the firmly held belief that he was executed in cold blood at the hands of an intoxicated police officer.  On Saturday night, Mario, grandson of renowned Creole musician Leela Vernon, was hanging out with a group of friends on Main Street. Sometime after nine p.m., he was reportedly approached by Police Constable Tevin Aranda.  A resident of the neighborhood whose home Vernon had visited moments earlier, shares with News Five off-camera what transpired thereafter.

 

Voice of: Main Street Resident

“I was right front ah my yard when the police dehn come and dehn past lee bit front ah my yard, like three more different lots and dehn park front deh, dehn tek wah look.  Afta dehn look and everything dehn move and dehn drive off.  Dehn gaan to another lane ova di other street.  Yes, dehn from deh di policeman walk through di bush.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This was around 9:30 you say?”

 

Voice of: Main Street Resident

“Around 9:30 yes.  So one of the policeman walked to one ah di abandoned lots and meet di guy over deh and he just let go one shot.  And after that dehn left di body and dehn continue pan dehn own.  Seh five minutes afta, dehn come back and dehn continue walk eena di place, dehn seh well di mada f*cka dead, that‘s all weh dehn seh right.  So dehn tek wahn look, dehn dreg di body and put ahn by di roadside, afta dat dehn dash ahn eena di vehicle, dehn gaan, drop ahn da hospital and dehn turn back again and dehn start to walk in di bush deh but dehn mi look suspicious.”

 

The police department, however, has given its account of what took place that night. The version of events, as told by the officer in question, is completely different from what eyewitnesses have divulged. That chronicle was presented by Assistant Commissioner of Police Joseph Myvett.

 

Joseph Myvett

ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch

“Police report that on Saturday, January thirteenth, 2018, sometime after nine p.m. whilst Police was on patrol on George Price Street, Punta Gorda Town, they observed one Mario Vernon with what appears to be a firearm in his hand. Upon seeing the police, he started moving away and the police then drove off and on to main Middle Street, Punta Gorda Town, in the direction where Vernon was going. According to the police officer, he then exited the police vehicle upon seeing Mr. Vernon and at the time of him seeing Mister Vernon, he notice Mister Vernon walking away from him and pointing a firearm towards him and as a result he drew his  service revolver and fired one shot which eventually fatally wounded Mister Vernon. The scene was processed, where one 380 Larsen brand pistol was found on the scene. Police have since launched both a criminal and an internal investigation into this matter. We have been given several information and several leads which we are working on at this point in time. The officer in question is also detained at this time pending this investigation.”

 

Admittedly, Mario was not a model citizen. His uncle, Franz Vernon Sr., says that numerous attempts were made to try and help the young man to walk the straight and narrow. Despite his choice to lead a lawless life, family members are convinced that he was deliberately shot and killed by PC Aranda.

 

Franz Vernon Sr

Franz Vernon Sr., Uncle of Deceased

“That night, you know, I was right here in my place, you know, chilling with my friends and just talking and those stuff.  Then a guy just ran up here to my building and he told me, “Bwai Franz, dehn just shot Mario, you know.  So when he told me that I just freeze and I take it easy and just relaxed.  Then one of my next friend that was here, he went to the scene because the place is not so far from where I live.  The place is through a backyard and then you make a right and you’ll be right there. All those guys were right there.  They were associating and chilling and this police guy came up about one, two, three times to my nephew, like agitating him, agitating him and my nephew went across the yard, and I was told, to make a call to his father because he was with those guys.  So he went across and when he was across the yard, then was the time that he got shot.  From what I heard, you know, he was freeze and was told to lift his arms up, he had his arms up and one single shot caught him from behind the head and my nephew fell right there.  No running or nothing neva happen.  And they didn’t wait for no crime scene or nothing, dehn just drag mi nephew, dash ahn eena di truck and ker ahn.”

 

In speaking with others in the area, we were told that Vernon was unarmed at the time of the pursuit. His lifeless body was then lugged a good distance from where he fell dead to the side of the road, before being hefted into the pan of a pickup truck. The firearm that was later discovered not far from where he was fatally shot, was reportedly planted at the scene following the incident.

 

Voice of: Main Street Resident

“I think that it‘s true, di polide tek wahn chance ah di man and dehn tek di man life because di man, he noh got no kinda weapon wid ahn when dat mi happen, but di police dehn di change topic.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Do you know if Mario and any of the officers, particularly the one who shot him, had any kind of altercation before this incident?  What have you heard?”

 

Voice of: Main Street Resident

“Well the guy weh get shot he came to me and he told me how the police were threatening him.  That‘s all I know.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“How well did you know Mario, as someone who lives around here or hangs around in this neighborhood?”

 

Voice of: Main Street Resident

“Well I know Mario, I know his granny for many years, for over twenty-two years now, that‘s what I know.  Every time he come visit me and if di man seh he want to eat something I always help ahn, so I give ahn some food.  That‘s what I do.”

 

As if the officer-involved murder of Fareed Ahmad a few weeks ago wasn’t bad enough, the Belize Police Department is once again at the center of another controversy resulting from the actions of its officers.

 

Reporter

“Are you able to say if Mr. Vernon had any previous run-ins with Police?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“Yes. Yes. He did.”

 

Reporter

“Of what nature?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“I think there is a robbery case against him in Belize City and I know that there were several incidents in Punta Gorda for which he came in contact with the police there.”

 

Reporter

“And the purpose of the detention of the police officer?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“At that point in time the Police was also responding to a report of the deceased allegedly pulling a firearm on someone.”

 

Reporter

“Was that officer off duty? Meaning, we were told that he was providing security at an establishment?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“No. The officer was working. He was driving the patrol vehicle at the time when he saw the deceased walking.”

 

Reporter

“So, those reports or allegations rather that the officer in question was intoxicated, that’s not true?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“No, we are not saying that. What happen is that we are following all the information that was given to us and including those are being followed by the police. Myself and Mr. Williams the Commander of the Professional Standards Branch were on the ground for the entire day yesterday and I believe he may have gone back down there today.”

 

Mario Vernon

Reporter

“Sir, can you say whether Mr. Vernon had any prior contact or communication with this police officer in question, prior to his shooting death?”

 

ACP Joseph Myvett

“Not that I know about.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

In Punta Gorda, it is not the first time that a cop has caused the death of a citizen. Rasheed Elijio suffered the same fate in May 2013. The eighteen-year old prisoner was attempting to escape from police custody along with one Brian Garcia when he was shot and killed.

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1 Response for “Mario Vernon Shot Dead by Police in Cloud of Mystery”

  1. Very Concern says:

    I am appalled the way the Police is behaving in Punta Gorda. Firstly, the way the young man was killed seems very suspicious as I cannot understand if there was an attack..why was he shot behind the head??… Secondly, Mr. Myvette has to come straight…that is non-sense from Police Officers taking away the public’s phone while taking pictures or videos is a disgraced. They do not have any right to take away peoples phone and if the people decide to post anything offensive then let the family or the offended deal with that in Court but is not the Police duty to take away peoples phone, especially deleting evidence. Mr. Myvette please go back to your Commanding officer on this issue as he has said publicly that the Police are not to tamper with taking pictures or videos by the public once they are respecting the boundary line of the police.

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