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May 11, 2020

Police Draw Weapons to Stop a Presumed Runaway Ambulance

An ambulance was stopped by heavily armed police at the Hattieville junction on Sunday afternoon. It was coming from Hopkins in the south and was transporting a patient accompanied by her daughter.  A woman inside the ambulance was heard pleading that her mother was ill.  The scary sight of the police drawing their weapons at the ambulance was captured on video and posted on social media. It caused instant public consternation because a life was at risk. The Commissioner of Police was compelled to issue a statement, which in fact, raised more questions to the chilling incident.  But as usual, there are two sides to the story and the driver of the vehicle transporting the patient today provided his version, which is in stark contradiction of the police account. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A female patient being rushed to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital from Independence on Sunday was met by a team of heavily armed law enforcement officers at a checkpoint in Hattieville.  Police say they received credible information that an ambulance en route to Belize City from Stann Creek District was being driven by an individual held captive by a gunman.  The tip, as it turned out, was furthest from the truth.


Blaine Caliz

Blaine Caliz, Employee, Southern Emergency Services

“I had my lights on, I didn’t use the siren the entire way.  I just used the siren to regulate traffic so if there’s something up ahead or if there’s a curve coming I would put the siren on so that my path could be clear.  Upon entering Belmopan, came up to the hill, I could see the checkpoint in the front.  There was a car in front of me.”


That vehicle was allowed to go on its journey, but Blaine Caliz, the driver of the ambulance, was asked to stop.


Blaine Caliz

“So I stopped.  When I stopped he asked me where I was going.  I told him I had a patient I was taking to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.  When I told him that he was like, “You just turned your siren on. Turn it off.”  I said I need to put on my siren, I can’t turn it off and that’s when my medic told me, “Let’s go.”  So I just continued driving.  When I left from there we met a next checkpoint a little bit outside of Belmopan.  When I rounded the corner from the airstrip there was nobody at the checkpoint on the road.  The same car was still in front of me.  When they saw the ambulance they started walking from under the tent, but the car in front went through so I followed through as well.”


Commissioner of Police Chester Williams offers a different account of what transpired.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“The police had received information that the driver of the ambulance was being held at gunpoint and being forced to transport drugs and guns from Stann Creek to Belize City and with that information, the checkpoint on the Hummingbird Highway just outside of Belmopan was alerted and a few minutes later, an ambulance bearing Stann Creek license plates approached the checkpoint.  The police stopped the ambulance and upon attempting to question the driver to ensure that he was okay and to check the ambulance, the driver sped off, almost hitting the officers who were at the checkpoint.  We immediately contacted Southern Regional Hospital and inquired from them if in fact an ambulance had departed that hospital and what would have been the destination of that ambulance.  Southern Regional’s response was that their ambulance did not go anywhere.”


The ambulance had in fact been dispatched from Southern Emergency Services, a private company operating near the entrance of Hopkins Village.


Blaine Caliz

“We got to Hattieville, the medics they needed to do a blood pressure reading because of the road, they couldn’t take it on the [road] so they had to stop and do it manually.  When we stopped they got the reading and told me to keep on going.  While we stopped, there were three cars that passed.  When we took the curve by the bridge, I saw all the cars that passed on the side of the road.  There was a red police truck in the middle and the guys were already there with their guns drawn.  I just came in slowly, they told me to come out of the vehicle so I stopped and parked.  They told me to get out, but I had already instructed my medic to start videoing.”


Prior to arriving in Hattieville, however, ComPol Williams said that the ambulance simply barreled through a second checkpoint near the outskirts of Belmopan.


Chester Williams

“The other checkpoint on the George Price Highway outside of Belmopan was alerted and they were prepared for the ambulance and when the ambulance arrived there again, the officers attempted to stop the ambulance.  The ambulance drove right through the police, the police officers had to dash off the road to avoid being hit by the ambulance.  Now that is not the normal behavior of an ambulance driver. So again, with the driver just bolting through the checkpoint, a second checkpoint, it really and truly made the information more believable because we do not expect that the driver of the ambulance is going to behave in such a way.  And so instructions were given to the Hattieville checkpoint to boost up their manpower and to be fully prepared to ensure that the ambulance was brought to a stop because we now believe that this driver is being held hostage in this van.  He is forced to go a certain way and we now see saving his life as a matter of urgency.”


When the officers approached the vehicle, they discovered several persons inside, including the driver, a medic, the patient and someone presumed to be her daughter.  According to police, they were immediately allowed to proceed en route to Belize City. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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