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Apr 6, 2020

Police Beat Down San Martin Residents

Did cops take the enforcement of the curfew law too far on Friday night in Belmopan? That’s what many have concluded after a video and photos of an elderly man being beaten by police surfaced online. The officers were reportedly patrolling the streets in the San Martin area when they pursued two persons on the streets after eight pm. The cops reportedly said that the persons ran into elderly man’s yard and that is when they went looking for them. That visit ended in one man hospitalized, three arrested and the elderly man beaten up.  But that’s not all – residents in the area claim that the officers were firing shots indiscriminately on the street that night. Now, there is an internal investigation into the matter. Here’s the story with Andrea Polanco.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This cell phone footage shows police officers repeatedly hitting and kicking two persons on the ground. It happened on Uruguay Street in the San Martin area of Belmopan on Friday night. While this footage captured only a snippet of the mayhem that ensued in a yard – at the end of it one person was shot and now hospitalized; and four others were beaten up, including seventy-seven-year-old Alejandro Chavez. Three of those young men were arrested.  The senior citizen, Chavez, operates Don Chindo’s Apartments where more than twenty persons live – but he says they weren’t breaking any laws and still trying to understand why police stormed his place. On Saturday afternoon Chavez was in pain and had to be supported to walk as he returned from a doctor’s visit. Pictures taken shortly after the beat down show a swelling of the neck area, injuries to the arms and mid-section. This medical report obtained on Saturday outlines the areas of localized swellings filled with blood, as well as mild bruise of the lung consistent with blunt force trauma. He recounts that he going to open the gate but before he was able to do so, more than five heavily armed cops wearing masks burst through the gate and kicked him over and beat him up.

 

Alejandro Chavez

Alejandro Chavez, Victim [Translated]

“They were kicking the gate and I told them I would open it. So, when I went outside they opened the gate and kicked me over. One kicked me down and the other came over and kicked me and the other one came back to kick me again and the other said not to kick me up.”

 

Mike Chavez, Son of Alejandro Chavez

“The other one tell ah left it mek we go to the other ones and they gone and beat up the other two guys and then gone to the back room and take the other two from there and beat them up. She said that from here they pick them up and took them to the street and finish beat them up dah the street.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“At any point did your dad try to resist arrest or fight back with these police?”

 

Mike Chavez

Mike Chavez

“No because he say that when they slam ah right deh and he drop he only hold up himself down and they just the kick him up. If you realize, he has bruise on his arm; neck and rib side and this is the one that is paining him a little bit more.   Beating an elderly man like him is like beating a five or six year old kid – so why would you put yourself to an old man like that and kicking him with your foot stronger than your hand. They knock him there; throw him there and kick him there.”

 

 

The tenants at the property say that some of the officers pointed guns at them and forced them to go inside and lock their doors. They report hearing several shot fired – some of which hit twenty-nine-year-old Gustavo Pivaral. He was shot in the hand and stomach and had to surgery as a result. Pivaral doesn’t live at the residence but spends a lot of time there. Mike Chavez says that the attack on the property was unwarranted.

 

Mike Chavez

“There were couple guys there – the three guys that live here and the other one lives there. One of them was shot and he was sitting down on a bench and they say that the officer just pulled the thing and pop the shot at them like some rubber bullets.  The guy wasn’t even moving or anything. It is pretty weird the way how they come in. If deh kids break the law – it is pretty good mek the law come and lock them and charge them. But that is not the reason for them to come – you see the video – they lash them up like animals and even animals don’t deserve to get beat like that and the way those guys get beat also, right?”

 

Vilma Pivaral lives three two houses away. Her brother Gustavo was shot and her son twenty-three-year-old David Nah was also beaten up and arrested. Pivaral says that just after eight-thirty that night she saw two boys riding on the street – and shortly after she heard gunshots. She says shortly after an officer walked down the street firing shots for no apparent reason. She says the cops were in the area two times before they burst into the Chavez’s residence.

 

Voice of: Vilma Pivaral, Sister of Gustavo Pivaral

“It neva tek so long when I heard the first shot and lee while later another shot. I peeped through the window and the two boys are coming on their bike and they just shoot after them like crazy. One of the boys come this way and the next one tek the other way. One of them drop down and get in the yard and that’s where they catch him and beat ah up and put him in the pickup.   The same police man weh do the shoot up he just come on the road and fire crazy all over straight down and you know people interfere and they say get inna yuh yard.  When we see two police vehicle come under speed and they gone straight dah the old man house and we hear banging like they knock something and shots and people the bawl and lotta quarrel but we couldn’t do anything but we took a video of them.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Were these guys trying to resist arrest? Fighting with the police or pulled a weapon?”

 

Voice of: Vilma Pivaral

“No. We didn’t see anything like that and we are still wondering why they came to the house when they had already arrested the two that were on the street?”

 

The police officers were reportedly out that night to enforce the SOE’s curfew. According to the tenants at Don Chindo’s apartments, police informed them that they were looking for persons who had violated the curfew and ran on to the property.  While the police have a tough job policing the street during this time, their use of what is deemed excessive force is an abuse of their power. Many have questioned whether the officers took Minister of National Security’ Michael Peyrefitte’s words on Thursday as grounds to behave in this “senseless” manner:

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security [File: April 2nd, 2020]

“So, we feel no guilt when we say between eight pm and five a.m. the security forces nuh wah got no sense. Between five a,m. and eight p.m., the security forces wah have all the sense inna the world. Between eight pm and five ih nuh wah got no sense.”

 

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says there’s an internal investigation into the matter because of the beat down of the seventy-seven-year-old man.

 

Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“One of the video that really disturbed me is that one involving the elderly man; now, for me, that I cannot condone. I have directed professional standards branch to investigate that matter. I should be getting a report from them by the end of the day today. Once that is received, I will be giving directions on how to proceed.”

 

Reporting for news five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


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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