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Feb 23, 2018

BSAG Soldiers, Policeman Had ‘No Authority’: Chester

Chester Williams

As we said, eight law enforcement officers are now in custody and there is an ongoing criminal and internal investigation into Ariel Audinette Salazar’s death. There are also many unanswered questions as to what this group of men was doing at Salazar’s house because they were not acting within the scope of their authority.  According to Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, who heads the Professional Standards Branch, the Belize Special Assignment Group is assigned a police officer and were reportedly out in Orange Walk when a woman reported to them that a cell phone was missing. But instead of calling in the report, they masked up and took matters into their own hands. Williams is in Orange Walk carrying out an investigation into the incident. He told us that while the team acted on their own – they have not found a connection between the women and the BSAG team.

 

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch

“Some time in the early hours of Thursday gone, police responded to an incident on San Antonio Road here in Orange Walk Town. Upon arrival, police observed two male persons severely beaten and two others who are also complaining of having been beaten by some persons dressed in battlefield type uniforms. As a result of that complaint, the individuals were taken to the Northern Regional Hospital where hours later one Ariel Salazar, who was one of the persons, passed away. The other individual, one Mister Payes, is still admitted in the Northern Regional Hospital with injuries to the body. The other two individuals were not that badly beaten so they were treated and eventually released from the hospital. Police investigation into this matter has so far led to the detention of eight persons, seven who are elements of the BDF and one who is of the BPD. The police officer who is detained is assigned to the BSAG, so are the BDF. They are currently being interviewed in respect of this matter and our investigation continues.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, are you able to tell us what these men doing at the house? We understand that they went looking for a cell phone? Is this within the purview the BSAG?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“Well, from investigations, yes we obtained information that they were asking these young men about a cell phone and because the information about the cell phone was not forthcoming, that was why the beat down occurred. As it relates to your second question, whether or not this is within the scope of BSAG’s responsibility, the answer to that question is no. Matters of this nature should have been dealt with the Orange Wall Police detachment and not BSAG. So, if it is that they were the ones who went to the home, they would have been operating outside the scope of their responsibilities as members of the BSAG.  No official complaint was made to the Orange Walk Police Station. Obviously, the young lady on whose information they were acting, reported directly to them but what they ought to have done was to convey that information to Orange Walk Police, so that the police could have dealt with that matter, instead of them going out and did what they allegedly had done.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Sir, are these officers mandated by the law to wear masks; we understand they were wearing masks?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“As it relates to the issue of wearing of masks, I do not believe it is a part of their mandate to be wearing masks. We have no legislation, either security forces that governs our officers using mask on whatever operation that they may be conducting. So, the issue of wearing a mask is one that we are looking into as well, to see whether or not there is any justification for them to have been wearing mask especially knowing the fact that they were operating within an urban area. One might understand if you are out in the bushes and you never know what you might encounter, so one might have the need for it. But operating in an urban area, I really and truly don’t see the need for you to be wearing a mask.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Are you able to say from where they got these masks?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“I cannot say.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, the Police or BSAG did not issue these?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“Not to my knowledge.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Have you confiscated these masks?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“We are still in the process of searching for them. Wehave not located them as yet.”

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