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Sep 6, 2021

Were B.D.F. Rules of Engagement Followed in Deadly Santa Familia Shooting?

Did the lowest-ranking Belize Defense Force soldier who fired the fatal shot at his colleague in Santa Familia on Sunday night follow all the measures that are outlined in the B.D.F.’s rules of engagement?  The internal directives that define the circumstances, conditions, degree and manner in which the use of force is authorized are a five-step process that is proportional to the perceived threat.  In the wake of the deadly incident, many are questioning whether those rules were indeed followed.  News Five spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Velasquez, B.D.F. Chief of Staff, who explained the purpose of the rules.


Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez, Chief of Staff, B.D.F.

“The rules of engagement are orders and they are subsidiary to the Defense Act, so they are law and the rules of engagement that we use is the Belize Defense Force (Rules of Engagement in Peacetime) Regulations 2002, S.I. 75.  These rules govern all the situations or most situations where a soldier might find himself in dealing with the general public or any other group of people.  The rules of engagement cover any situation where a soldier may be required to use force and the levels of force that are appropriate for whatever situation he might find himself in.”


Anthony Velasquez

Isani Cayetano

“In an incident such as what transpired in Santa Familia, what is the course of action to be taken by the Belize Defense Force in determining culpability on the part of the officer who fired the shot?”


Lt. Col. Anthony Velasquez

“Well I can’t talk about that specific incident itself but I can just reference the rules of engagement and in the rules of engagement it mentions that when encountering aggressive or provocative civilians, a warning must be given about the possible results of his actions and there should be an attempt or, time and space permitted, there should be an attempt disarm or disable any aggressive or provocative civilians and most importantly, the use of force must be proportional to the threat, unless there’s an imminent threat of the loss of life. Since the incident that you’re referring to resulted in the loss of life, the police will be and have the primary jurisdiction here where their investigation will cover the circumstances surrounding the incident and whether any criminal charges should be leveled against anyone.”

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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