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Jan 30, 2006

Murder and mayhem rocks Belize City

Story PictureIn our years of broadcasting the daily news, we’ve used words such as heartless, cold-blooded, and merciless. But there were no words we could think of to describe what a nine year old boy endured on Friday night on the streets of Belize City. Around eight p.m., the child watched in absolute terror as a masked gunman emerged from the darkness, walked up to his father and then shot him in the head at point-blank range. Then as the victim lay dead on the ground, the killer went through his pockets. Unbelievably, this act of savagery was just one of at least five shooting incidents that transpired over the weekend. Today News Five’s Jacqueline Woods had the grisly task of chronicling the harsh reality of life in Belize City today.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Fifty-one year old Michael Burns and his nine year old son were at the family?s store on Freetown Road when a lone gunman simply walked up to them and pointed a gun at the pair. Burns?s common law wife and the child?s mother, Daphne Dillett, was only a few yards away seated outside of her shop. The trauma of the terrifying incident has left the woman shaken and today she declined to appear on camera. Dillett says she could only watch helplessly as her loved ones were at the mercy of a gunman.

Daphne Dillett, Common?Law?Wife of the Deceased
?I just feel somebody just pass me, and when I look the other way, I see this guy pass with the gun, but he has the gun down, not up, right down. And he just pass me with the gun and I was like, oh my God, but I was scared because I know that my son was there, so I didn?t say anything. So I just like watched everything and my other brother was outside also, but his back was turned?and he passed him also and he just went to the shed and say, ?Nobody move.? And the only person there was our son and Mike. And he said, ?Nobody move.? And Mike went towards him and said, ?Bwai.? That?s what I heard, he said, ?Bwai? and he going towards ah to try to get the gun or something, but I mi fear for Justin?s life.?

Dillett says her husband was scared for his son?s life and approached his attacker to shield the child. That gunman is described as a young man whose face was partially covered with a red nylon material. Dillett says she will never forget what happened next.

Daphne Dillett
?Went to him and said, ?Bwai,? and he gone to him to try and get the gun or something and he just shot him in his head. And when he shot him in his head, I saw that part when he just put the gun up and just shot him in his head and he just drop.?

As soon as Burns hit the pavement, Dillett realised that her son was still under the shed, frozen in shock. She called to him and as the little boy ran over to his mother, Dillett says that is when her attention was drawn to the shooter. She watched as the killer entered the shop and then seconds later, come back outside to search her common-law husband?s pants pockets as he lay dead.

Daphne Dillett
?Looking in his pocket like taking out. And he is dead, and he had the gun right there and he just the search up inna his pocket. And I start to bawl, I say, ?somebody please help me, help me.?

But Dillett says no one would stop as vehicles drove by the crime scene … that is until a security guard working in the area heard the screams and rushed to the scene. The distraught woman remembers seeing a suspicious person lurking around, and tonight suspects he was the killer?s accomplice.

Daphne Dillett
?When I looked, then I looked again over the other side and I see another guy, but he was red-skinned, a red-skinned looking guy, because the guy that shot Mike he?s very dark and he had like a red rag over his mouth, like triangle. But it?s not really a rag; it looked like nylon something kinda rag, because when I see him sideways, I see the red rag. He had on a white shirt and a dark pants. And after all this happen, I just look over the other side and I see another guy, because I thought there was only one, but when I look over the other side by Y, I see another guy like a distance away from him, probably waiting for him.?

Michael Burns is described as a devoted father to his young son and the two were extremely close. Dillett says she knows her son is hurting inside, but is trying to be strong for her. The family is seeking counselling in the aftermath of this cold-blooded murder.

Daphne Dillett
?He is very, very hurt and I know that. I think he di try be strong for me because he know that I am weak when it comes to those things. He knows who I am and he knows I am a weak person when it comes to that. I get breakdown easily, so he done?his father always tell him, he said, ?Justin, no matter what happen, you always be there for your ma and you be strong for your mother.?

G. Michael Reid, Police Press officer
?He was a hard working individual; he opened a little business in that area, trying to support his wife and kinds. This incident happened in front of his child, and one can imagine how traumatised that child will be.?

Anthony Watters, Close Family Friend
?Something really needs to happen in Belize about this whole situation, because the way how this is going on is very, very bad. This person is a self-employed person. He is a person who don?t mess around with anyone, and to let something like this happen right in front of your family is very, very serious. This will stay with the rest of the family for life.?

Tonight family friend Anthony Watters appealed to the authorities for urgent attention to the crime situation.

Anthony Watters
?Try to enforce the law that this hanging thing probably needs to happen, because the guys out there right now don?t care who is doing the crime or whatever. They just do whatever they want to do. That means they don?t care about the law.??

G. Michael Reid, Police Press officer
?This weekend and the past two weekends we?ve had a number of incidents that is of concern. The commissioner is very concerned, I just came out of a meeting this morning where Mr. Jeffries had all his commanders discussing strategy and trying to come up with a plan to see what we can do to prevent this from going any further.?

Daphne Dillett
?I want to tell them just stop what they are doing. A lot of people get hurt, they noh know how they hurt people family. Everybody have a family fi live for. We have to deh without our loved-one, who we love because of the things they di do, weh noh necessary. And I just would want the government or somebody do something about it.?

Jacqueline woods for News Five.

On Saturday, homicide detectives were called out to another murder scene, this time near the Queen Square Market. News Five’s Jacqueline Woods joined investigators searching for a motive to the execution-style killing.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Fifty-eight year old Delhart Castro had worked for several years as a school warden and security guard at St. Michael?s College. Castro is described as a well-mannered individual, with no enemies and a willingness to listen to other people?s problems and help them whenever he could. Early Saturday morning, Castro was gunned down and killed on West Collet Canal near the Queen Square Market.

Sherlette Gabourel, Daughter of the Deceased
?When we heard about it we were at work, we were well shocked when they told us. We didn?t believe, because this man is a well-respectable man, you know. When people need advice, they go to him. He was even a pastor at Hattieville prison. Now we left shocked, we didn?t even believe until we went to the morgue and we see him for ourself.?

Residents of the area report hearing a single gunshot around two a.m. on Saturday. The bullet struck Castro in the right temple and he died on the spot. Tonight his family strongly suspects that someone lured him to the area because Castro allegedly received a phone call from an unidentified person asking for a meeting at the crime scene. Today, Belize City police could not confirm that report.

Sherlette Gabourel
?Like I tell you, he is a well respectable man, he doesn?t owe anybody out here, we don?t know why they shot him. We need the public help to tell us if anybody see anything or know anything.?

While police continue their investigations into the Castro murder, initial findings indicate that the incident could have been a senseless killing.

G. Michel Reid, Police Press Officer
?At this point with Mr. Castro, it is yet to be determined what transpired there and why. We don?t know; it seems just like a senseless killing actually. Here?s an individual who really doesn?t have much to speak of, so why would anybody want to kill him, we don?t know.?

Sherlette Gabourel
?Everyone is mourning right now, the family grieving but … we just left shell-shocked, you know, can?t believe.?

Police have detained a number of persons for questioning but up to news time we understand that there is insufficient evidence to connect anyone to the crime. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

At the same time Michael Burns was murdered on Freetown Road, there was another shooting occurring on the other side of town. This time, the crime scene was Neal Penn Road near Monroe Street. There police found forty-one year old Clarence Flowers suffering from a gunshot wound to his right leg. Flowers told police that as he was standing in the area he was approached by two men on bicycles. One of the suspects pulled out a gun and fired several shots. Police say they have no motive for the shooting and are investigating.

Twenty-four hours later Belize City police were once again back on the south side responding to yet another shooting. Authorities say around eight-thirty on Saturday night twenty-four year old Roland Usher and twenty-nine year old Elston Nunez, were hanging out near the Sibun Street bridge when a heavily tinted black vehicle with no license plates approached the duo from the direction of the Belize City Centre. According to Usher and Nunez, as the vehicle approached them it stopped and one of the occupants, an armed masked man, jumped out and fired several shots at them. Nunez was hit in the right leg and Usher received bullet wounds to his back. Both have been hospitalised at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Police say at the crime scene they recovered nine spent nine millimetre shells.

Meanwhile, a team of law enforcement officers were responding to another shooting that occurred around the same time that Nunez and Usher came under fire. This time the victim has been identified as eighteen year old Zakir Harris. Harris told police he was along with two other young men standing outside of Rong’s Restaurant on Central American Boulevard when a grey-coloured pickup drove up to the establishment and stopped. A man described as being of fair complexion got out of the vehicle and fired several shots at them. Harris was hit in the left thigh and admitted at K.H.M.H. At the scene, police recovered ten spent shells and one live round of nine millimetre ammunition. Harris has told the cops that he does not know who shot him and why. According to police press officer, G. Michael Reid, they have been questioning a number of persons in connection with the shootings, but no one as yet has been arrested.

G. Michael Reid, Police Press officer
?Jackie, it seems like there are way too many guns on the street, that?s for sure. We had launched an operation a couple years ago trying to get these guns off the street and was successful in that many guns were removed. Maybe it?s time to revisit that programme or to try to come up with something else. Certainly, all this will rely upon to cooperation of the community. We want people to assist us and when they know of people who are possession of illegal firearms to please call the police, let us know. This is our country and what we do will make it safer for all of us.?

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