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Apr 20, 2020

An Investigation is Launched into the Death of Fashion Designer Ulysease Roca

Ulysease Roca

Ulysease Roca, a twenty-five-year-old fashion designer, was found dead inside his house in Willows Bank, Belize District on Sunday. Roca’s death is under investigation because of the circumstances. Roca was gay and an HIV patient, two issues that made him a target for threats and bullying.  Just before his demise, he posted on social media that he had suffered a beating at the hands of the police when he was picked up for violating curfew regulations.  The allegations against the police for abuse are well-known so Roca’s family appealed for a post-mortem to be conducted to determine his case of death. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.


Ulysease Roca, Deceased

“I don’t get the fair treatment that I deserve, I didn’t get a phone call. I was locked up from Saturday, I didn’t get phone calls, I didn’t get anything. They wanted me to pay for my property. Like really? You’re locking me up for curfew breach and you want me to pay for my property? What’s going on? Why am I being called princess? Why am I being treated like this? That’s the question that I am asking to the police officers.”


Duane Moody, Reporting

That is an excerpt from one of several emotional videos shared by Ulysease Roca in the days ahead of his death in Willows Bank, Belize District. The twenty-five was distressed and expressed his frustrations over being bullied and then physically assaulted by an officer; his swollen jaw is where the officer, who he identifies to the end of the video, struck him. That swelling got worst as the days went by.


Delita Roca, Sister of Deceased

“He was with a police officer that he said was Mister Shane Pook and he had told my sister that with the beating that he already received at the station in Belize, on top of that the officer hit him in the face with a machete and the Tuesday, which was the seventh, we got messages from two persons in [Bermudian] Landing saying that Ulysease needed help; that he went to their houses and was telling them that the police beat him and burn him with cigarette. Because of ih sexuality, I feel like he was always a target, always a target. Ulysease was not the best person; he was not. He had his ways, he had arguments with people, but nobody deserved to be treated like that.”


Ulysease was first detained by police on April fifth for violating the curfew law; he was arraigned, pleaded guilty and was fined three thousand dollars one day later. Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says that police had also responded to a report in Belize City in which Roca had been beaten by an unidentified individual.  In one of his Facebook live videos, Ulysease foreshadows his death and days later, on Sunday, he is found lying face up on a bed inside a room at a house in Willows Bank. He was observed with a swelling to the neck.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“I saw a Facebook post where he had gone live and expressed that he was hit to the face by a police officer whilst in custody. He also showed his jaw to be swollen and in that same live, he also made some allegations against some other persons whom he was saying were bullying him. Subsequent to all of this, on April sixteenth, police got a call of a situation on Faber’s Road Extension and they responded, when police got there, Ulysease Roca was met and he expressed to police that he was beaten up by an individual. He was questioned as to who the person was and he said he does not know the person. Police had officered to take him to the hospital and he refused to go to the hospital.  On Friday night, he apparently was experiencing some pain and had requested his neighbours to take him to the hospital and they had refused to take him. I guess because the fact that it was night and subsequent to that he went to his bed. He was last seen alive on Saturday and then yesterday his body was found. I am not going to say that his death was caused due to police beating him. I am not going to say it was not either because from what he said in his video, the police hit him on the jaw. I don’t think a hit on the jaw would cause someone’s death and subsequent to that, on the sixteenth, he alleged again that someone had beaten him.”


The family requested a post-mortem because his siblings believe that as an HIV positive individual, he may have died as a result of complications from the beating he received at the hands of the police.


Delita Roca

Delita Roca

“Even though he had HIV, there are so many other things especially the fact that he had that infection. At first it was just a small lump right here and eventually, everything just blow up right here; all down here mi swell up fat. So it obvious that he had an infection. He went to the hospital twice and they denied him.  They told us the body was at the morgue in Boom. When we got there, the security told us no body was brought there yesterday or today. When they brought my brother, they had the pickup back open, ih foot di hang out. We wait almost an hour. We got there from ten and waited till after eleven when the doctor come. My brother gone witness the thing. He say dehn noh do no post-mortem. We deh outside and we could already smell he already when dehn open the door. He mi done decompose. The doctor say dehn noh di do no post-mortem. The doctor tell him Ulysease neva had no swelling, Ulysease had no signs of police brutality. My brother said but we all see it. We witnessed it and have pictures and videos, we see everything. And he is like I am the expert here. I di tell you dah neva cause ah that. But he say dehn neva cut ahn open there. They only tell he that.”


Information to News Five is that Ulysease died as a result of multiple organ failure.


Caleb Orosco

Caleb Orosco, Executive Director, UNIBAM

“One of the things I learned about police procedure is that the officers could always misspeak about what will happen and not happen. They forget that victims of violent crimes will always advocate for some kind of closure. For that particular officer who misspoke, he also is symbolic of what is problematic in our society and in the police department. That when victims of crime, whether it is a woman or a person with mental breakdown comes to you, it requires you to show some level of humanity and address their need the best way you can. To be so insensitive and lack understanding that you will deny closure to a family member who is seeking to understand why their loved one died, shows that individual has no respect for decency or the life of this person that they found in that house by himself.”


According to UNIBAM’s Executive Director Caleb Orosco, it is not the first time that the police department has demonstrated difficulty in dealing with someone with a mental health issue. Back in 2019, a mentally ill patient was murdered by another inside a police cell when officers on duty breached protocol. Most recently, the Police Department received a black eye when officers coerced a mentally challenged woman and a man to perform in a sexual act; those officers have since been charged for a crime. And now this:


Caleb Orosco

“At the heart of the matter, he may have been denied medical care and there were overzealous officers who expressed their homophobia through name calling—like Cinderella and princess—and in my mind this could have been mitigated by simply recognizing that medical attention was required.  There are black spots in the police department that would always give it a black eye because they are busy in promoting a culture of suppression and not making a distinction between those individuals that need a little bit more empathy in their response and a little less suppression in the way they must carry out their duties. In my mind it is a wakeup call for the police department to do better, to strengthen their ability to deal with people who are not privileged to speak to hear the comprehend basic language of instruction.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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