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Feb 26, 2018

8 to Court for Murder, Attempted Murder in O.W. Beating

Tonight, eight lawmen are behind bars on charges of murder and attempted murder. Seven are members of the Belize Special Assignment Group and the other is a cop, assigned to the elite unit.  The men were jointly charged over the weekend and arraigned this morning before Magistrate Albert Hoare for the deadly attack that happened inside a home in Orange Walk Town. Last Friday, ACP Chester Williams of the Police Department’s Professional Standards Branch said that the men acted outside of their authority when they went to Ariel Audinette’s house at the corner of Staine’s Alley and San Antonio Road, looking for a missing cell phone. The group entered the house and allegedly accosted four men, brutally beating and killing Audinette and seriously injuring Oscar Payes. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Several residents gathered outside the Orange Walk Magistrate Court to see the faces of the eight law enforcement officers of the Belize Special Assignment Group – a policeman of the Special Patrol Unit and seven soldiers of the Belize Defence Force assigned to the BSAG Unit who allegedly murdered forty-six-year-old Ariel Audinette and left Oscar Payes hospitalized after a brutal beat down last Thursday morning here in Orange Walk Town. But the spectators were denied that opportunity as they were ordered to move from in front of the court and when the men emerged they all used t-shirts to cover their faces as they walked to and from the court. The accused are police officer thirty-year-old Lennart Cajun; B.D.F. soldiers twenty-eight-year-old Mateo Bolon; thirty-one-year-old Patrick Villagran Senior; twenty-six-year-old Patrick Diego; thirty-three-year-old Elvis Cob; twenty-six-year-old Edmar Petillo; twenty-one-year-old Bladimir Escarraga and twenty-three-year-old Francis Sho. They all appeared before Magistrate Albert Hoare and were read charges of murder and attempted murder and remanded to prison until April eighteenth. When the attack happened, some of these lawmen were wearing masks – and it may have been difficult to tell who inflicted the deadly blows but ACP Chester Williams say they are confident in their investigations.

 

Chester Williams

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch

“I know yes it was a difficult one because of the fact that some of the men were wearing masks and you know how this thing goes when dealing with investigations where persons are wearing masks. So, as a part of the investigative process, we had to find a way to go behind the mask and see how we could get those persons captured by the charge. We were able to gather sufficient evidence against the seven members of the B.D.F. and the police officer in respect of that matter.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Do you believe that these charges are strong enough to hold in court considering that identification may be an issue in the matter being tried?”

 

ACP Chester Williams

“That is going to be a matter decided by the court. I am satisfied that we have sufficient to lay the charge and put the matter before the court and the Judge will then decide at trial time whether or not the issue of identification is satisfied and then we move from there.”

 

Today resident came out to support the Audinette Salazar family’s cry for justice. The crowd in front of the court shouted at the accused men. Activist Karen Banner says she is not happy that the men were given preferential treatment – they remained without cuffs while appearing in court and even when they were taken away to prison.

 

Karen Banner

Karen Banner, Activist

“I think we all saw this morning that they were not handcuffed and they had their heads covered. I don’t think that was fair because everybody else came out had handcuffs and these guys didn’t have any.  We as a community, we need to get up and do something. This isn’t anymore about politics. There are a lot of stuff that are happening in our country. And we are just sitting down and not doing anything or we are on Facebook talking about it.  We need justice but we can’t let this be. We can’t let this be another incident that we just ride and forget about it after a couple months.”

 

Ariel Audinette Salazar

The men reportedly broke through the door to gain entry to Ariel Audinette’s house in the early hours of last Thursday morning. They were looking for a cell phone that a woman had reported missing. But when one of Audinette’s friends didn’t hand over the missing cell phone, the BSAG members beat three of the men to a pulp; killing Audinette and seriously injuring his friend Oscar Payes. The beating was so severe it is said to have broken most of Audinette’s bones, which punctured some of his organs. His sister said he had no chance of surviving the onslaught but he pointed out his killers before he died.

 

Manuelita Salazar, Sister of the Deceased [File: February 23rd, 2018]

“When we reached deh my lee bredda deh pahn the septic. Deh lay off inna pain, bad pain. You can’t move ah because everything bruk up inna ah. We mi try move ah but we couldn’t move. We gone to the next lee bwai and when we raised him up, he said he is in pain and can’t get up. My husband and my son raised him up and when they were walking him to the vehicle, the lee bwai say mi eye open but I nuh di see. He couldn’t move. They had to bring the hard board from hospital to turn him on and as I turned him on his back, he bawled for us to put him on his side. So, when we got in there the doctor told us he was dead. He said we will tell you the truth, “everything was broken up in him; he couldn’t live.” All this bone between the chest bruk up and so he could have never make it.  We ker ah inna the ambulance and I gone with ah. So, when he reached there we started to clean him up because he was muddy. They mi di push ih head down and up; down and up.”

 

Manuelita Salazar

Andrea Polanco

“Down and up in a bucket of water?”

 

Manuelita Salazar

“Yes he tell me from the first – listen he said, ‘Mani, deh beat we up upstairs, all four ah we. Dem kick up we and stomp up we and it was upstairs they full up the bucket and duck we head in there.’ From there they took them down and put them on the septic and a higher boss from them tell to give them a next round. I tell ah dah weh kinda people do this? He said that dah the one dem in green suit, so he said that dah the B.D.F. dem.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, your brother was able to talk to you, Miss Manuelita, and he identified the men who did this?”

 

Manuelita Salazar

“Yes. He tell mi everything before he died. I said, thank God I reached there before he died. He tell mi everything weh happen.”

 

But the BSAG didn’t have any authority to conduct such a search for a cell-phone – it’s out of the scope of their responsibilities.

 

ACP Chester Williams

“As it relates to their actions in dealing with the complaint that they were dealing with, I can state categorically that they had no jurisdiction to have dealt with that matter. That is a matter that would have fallen squarely within the scope of Orange Walk Police Formation. And so, the proper thing for them to have done, even if the complainant had gone to them and make the complaint, they could have referred the complainant to the Orange Walk Police Station who would have been the proper authority to follow up on that complaint.”

 

It is not clear what the BSAG team was doing in Orange Walk the morning the incident happened. They report directly to the commander of the B.D.F.  Not much is known about the Special Forces unit –but what we do know is that the unit was formed over ten years ago and the members respond to incidents such as terror attacks, hostage rescue and other high-level threats. They do rigorous training with U.S. and Canadian Special Armed Forces as members of this Special Forces unit.

 

David Jones

Brigadier General David Jones, Commander, B.D.F. [File: December 4th, 2013]

“BSAG is our Special Forces unit. This unit was created about seven years ago primarily for terrorism training, for any terrorist attack that might happen in Belize or any high risk or dangerous operations – hostage rescue, search and rescue, these guys are our elite forces. A soldier is trained to kill, and these guys in the Special Forces are trained to do it even more efficiently, or even better. And this is why this unit was created. And we are enhancing their training ability. They have been training with the US Special Forces for the past almost seven years now and so now with the US Special Forces and the Canadian Special Forces work closely together.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

The B.D.F. soldiers and a policeman were remanded to prison until mid-April.

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