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Apr 21, 2005

Child caught in Teakettle crossfire

Story PictureAmid all the excitement surrounding the looting, protests and B.T.L. dispute, you might start longing for the peace and quiet of the countryside. But as our next story shows, sometimes life in a village can be just as hazardous as life on Belize City streets.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Five-year-old James Ford, student of St. Edmond Campion Roman Catholic School in Teakettle Village in the Cayo District, is lucky to be alive after a gun man entered the school compound and opened fire. Classes had just been dismissed around two-thirty on Friday afternoon and Ford was sitting in the back of his uncle?s pickup when a man identified as sixty-seven year old Alberto Reyes walked up to the vehicle and shot twenty-nine year old Albert Lemoth. Lemoth said he had gone to the school to pickup his son and had offered to drop his nephew home when he was approached by Reyes and his daughter.

Albert Lemoth, Shooting Victim
?She ask me like, what happen to my brother? So I ask her, how you mean? And by the time I say, how do you mean, the same man he just come from right behind round and he just point the gun straight in the vehicle pan me and he just bust the gun right so pan me. And the right then I get conscious that I get shot and just reverse the vehicle out of the school yard. Meanwhile, the man had the gun right there so with a cartridge in his mouth and he have the gun right there di wait and his daughter the stand up right there so.?

The bullet caught Lemoth on the right side of his neck, bored through the front seat, and entered the back of the vehicle where little James was seated with his school bag on his back. It is believed the bullet ricocheted off the knapsack and then grazed the child?s face. And while the burn may have healed the child?s psychological scars are still raw.

Glennis Budna, Mother of injured Boy
?It?s very frightening because he could have killed him, or a next kid, some next kid could have been killed. I no think it?s right.?

The school?s principal, Anselma Rosado, says it was a terrifying moment for the students, the staff and parents.

Anselma Rosado, Principal, St. Edmund Campton R.C. School
?I feel very disturbed that it happened inside the school grounds and my children were exposed to what was happening. It could have been children hurt, teachers hurt. There were some parents that come to look for their children and they themselves were frightened.?

Belmopan police believe the shooting was the result of another bloody incident in which Alberto?s son Santiago Reyes suffered chop wounds to the head and hands. Santiago says that Friday morning he was attacked as he sat in the back of his pickup to sell oranges by the Queen Square Market in Belize City. Reyes claims he was attacked by someone he knows only as ?Smoke? and who he was told was sent by Lemoth to hurt him.

Santiago Reyes, Chopping Victim
?What people tell me that at Belize is that the same guy that my pa shot, that the he hail the guy after me. That the he hail the boy after me for chop me cause he mi deh by the market too the sell orange.?

But why would anyone want to kill Reyes?

Santiago Reyes
?His brother beat up my brother and I just gone talk to him to tell him, why he beat up my brother. And the rest of them, a whole crowd of them, about fifteen of them, attack me, broke up my windshield for my Toyota and we still no do nothing yet. They bend up my Toyota and we noh do them nothing.?

Albert Lemoth, Shooting Victim
?They could tell you I noh broke no glass. I noh bruk the pickup glass and I noh do the person them nothing because they come way dah my yard here and I noh do them nothing. Instead of I do them anything, I ask them what happen and they refuse, they no tell me why they came to my yard or nothing. All I know is that my cousin get whop with the machete, but they no tell me why they came. They just came straight to him with two machete.?

Just how long the Reyes and Lemoth families have been feuding is anybody?s guess, but the escalating dispute has now endangered the lives of children. Lead Investigator, Sergeant Sinquest Martinez, says they are trying to prevent a tragedy like what occurred in the village eight years ago. In 1997 husband and wife Evelyn and Wayne Garbutt were shot and killed following a long standing land dispute the couple had with Patrick Reyes.

Sgt. Sinquest Martinez, Lead Investigator
?Kids were going home, they could have been killed, they could have been hurt, and likewise both families. We don?t want to have any murderation because if you could recall in the past there was a double murder in Teakettle Village and these are some of the things that we are trying to avoid.?

On Tuesday Alberto Reyes was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, harm and use of deadly means of harm.

This is what the younger Reyes had to say about his father?s actions at the children?s school.

Santiago Reyes
?We mi the try contact him to let him noh go on like that to not let him get into trouble, but then no phone was working and get a message by somebody and he no waste no time, he gone down the side there.?

?I am just sorry that the kids were at the wrong place at the wrong time. He never mean to do that to the kids.?

Now with two adults wounded, a small child injured, and a father remanded on serious charges, what will it take to resolve this family dispute?

Albert Lemoth
?So long as the law take it in their hands and see that my family noh have no problem with them and we no have to go and deal with nobody at all, I no have a problem with that.?

Santiago Reyes
?I just left them left them to God, just left them to God.?

Sgt. Sinquest Martinez
?We are taking it very seriously. We are talking to both parties to desist from each other and let the law take its course.?

Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

Alberto Reyes is scheduled to reappear in Belmopan Magistrate’s Court on August third.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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