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Oct 4, 2021

Murder at Sea: Gunmen Ambush Espat Brothers, Jerry Dies

The Espat family from San Pedro is asking for justice after one of their own was gunned down while fishing at sea on Saturday. Jerry Espat and three of his siblings were diving and fishing near Cangrejo Caye, about five miles south of Ambergris Caye when they were attacked by gunmen in two boats. Several bullets made their mark on Jerry, whose body was discovered the following day near some mangroves. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

On Saturday, the Espat brothers from San Pedro: Jerry Espat, Luis Enrique Santoya, Ricardo Anthony Espat and Kirian Espat headed to a location near Cangrejo Caye for a fishing trip which turned deadly when four men on two separate boats drove up and opened fired on the group. Jerry and Kirian were in the water at the time diving for conch when they were ambushed. Jerry died and his body was found on Sunday, while Kirian and the others escaped with their lives.


Kirian Espat

Kirian Espat, Shooting Victim

“Four ah we mi deh out there, four breddas. They ambush we and dehn try fu kill we. Dehn shot up after my bredda and dehn shoot up the boat. And then only me and my lee bredda, Jerry Espat stay ina di water. Dehn bwai come out from the bush and wah next boat rush my lee bredda and shot up ahn right in front of me ina ih back. Ih get like six gunshot.The gun end up di jam pan dehn; and dehn end up di piic up wah shovel and a long machete and try whap me. Dehn whap up me ina my head. and I still noh give up for my life. I hide underneath the bow off of the boat and I di hide and I the breathe and I di come up and I di breathe. And the bally weh di drive, Toshie, he run into me.”


Anthony Espat

Anthony Espat, Father of Deceased

“Dehn shot up Jerry in front of his brother. Kirian Espat was floating like a fifteen feet away from Jerry. Jerry was saying, “Bwai Kir, what you gonna do?” Kirian telling me that he almost cried telling him what we gonna do? “Help me Kir, help me!” My son say mien, how I gonna help him dad? I can’t help him. I am defensible too.” So whenever dehn come, he see when the guy come and do so to Jerry Espat, bam, bam, bam, bam. They were in the water. My son still had on his fins and his mask.”


Injured during the attack, Ricardo Espat and Luis Santoya fled the area towards San Pedro to get help, but were pursued by the gunmen, who continued to fire shots at them.


Anthony Espat

“He come and spin and he can’t stop to pick up ih bredda dehn. So the next one, Ricardo Espat say let’s go let’s go fi home Luis. Let’s go. They come to the island. The red boat follow them from Cayo Cangrejo to this gas station in the back. Right there, they stop follow them. They came shooting all over the river, inside the river. The green boat dah di one weh come and kill Jerry.”


Jerry’s body was recovered from mangroves near Cangrejo Caye one day later on Sunday.


ASP Fitzroy Yearwood

ASP Fitzroy Yearwood, Communications Director, Belize Police Department

“About nine a.m. on Sunday, police received information that there was a body floating in the sea near some mangroves in that same area believed to be Jerry Espat. It was confirmed that it was Jerry, now deceased. So investigators are trying to identify these occupants that aggressed them on the sea on Saturday leading to now a fatal where Jerry Espat lost his life.”


The Espats are devastated by the attack and the death of their loved one. Overwhelmed with grief, Patriarch Anthony Espat is concerned about their safety and wants justice.


Anthony Espat

“They went with a clean mind to do some working. We sell in all of the restaurants in San Pedro. We are well known by the island, by the restaurants. We sell in all different restaurants every day and this is not fair. I want to say something to our country. I feel like it is too much. I feel like we need to ask to please our minister to do something about this, to change the system. You cannot have a guy, a killer do it once, twice and again and again. How many times he have to do this.”


Several persons are in police custody at this time, pending further investigation. But the brothers recognised their attackers because they grew up with them. The family is puzzle and does not understand why they targeted.


Kirian Espat

“I know dehn bwai. I see dehn. I grow up with dehn bwai dah San Juan and bally run with the engine and try run into me. He cut my diving pants with the propeller. Dehn nearly kill me. Dehn battle with me nearly twenty minutes and can’t. And dehn get frighten and dehn just take off and gone and lef my lee bredda di float up right dehn dead.”


Anthony Espat

“It’s friends from school when they were a kid. Friends from school; he tell them “Tush, why you gonna do me this? Why you’re doing this?  What I do you? What I do you Tush, what I do you?” they recognised them. They are friends from school. He called ahn by ih name and tell ahn why you’re doing this to me; we don’t do you nothing.”


Duane Moody for News Five.



Late this evening, the Police Department announced they have made an arrest. Gabriel Villafranco of San Pedro has been charged with murder, attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm and wounding. Police have also charged Pedro and Sergio Luis Tun jointly for two counts each for attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, and grievous harm.

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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