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Jul 29, 1999

Soldier testifies killing was in self defense

Also in Belmopan, the Commission of Inquiry into last month’s fatal shooting of a Guatemalan by B.D.F. soldiers in Arenal Village has completed its third day. Ten year old Jerson Ramirez, son of the deceased, after being cleared by a psychiatrist to testify, told the court that he could not see if his dad was wielding a machete when he was killed nor could he identify the soldier who shot him. The triggerman’s identity was not up for dispute, however, as the shooter himself was also called to the stand and readily admitted his involvement. He testified that he shot in self defense only as a last resort, because he feared for his life, that Ramirez was advancing on him with his machete to a point only three feet away. When asked why didn’t he shoot Ramirez in the arm or leg the soldier replied that he is trained to shoot to kill. The court has asked the press not to release the shooter’s name until after the commission’s report has been released by the Prime Minister. Tomorrow the Inquiry is expected to conclude with a trip to the scene of the shooting in Arenal, to be followed by the lawyer’s summations. At this point a review of the testimony makes it clear that the shooting took place entirely on Belizean soil, that Ramirez was armed with a machete, that the deceased was facing the soldiers when he was shot and that the soldier who shot him was not the same one with whom he had fought earlier that day. What is not totally clear is the distance which separated the killer and his victim and the degree to which Ramirez was actually threatening the B.D.F. patrol. The Commission is headed by Chief Magistrate Herbert Lord and includes Human Rights advocate Maria Gamero and former Chief Education Officer Inez Sanchez.

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