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Dec 2, 2009

Las Vegas Casino owner gives his version of shootout

Story PictureHeading north, two of four Belizeans who have been imprisoned in Mexico for over a year have won an appeal against their conviction and have been freed by a judge. But George Hardie Junior and David Gomez are still on the other side of the border held back because of immigration issues. Hardie and Gomez were detained in Quintana Roo along with Curlin Thompson and Martin Miller after an altercation with two unruly Mexican Nationals at the Las Vegas Casino. Hardie Jr., who was in charge of the hotel and his three security guards chased the men and a shootout occurred in the Subtiniente Lopez area. They were convicted of Attempted Murder for the shooting of Luis Navarro and were sentenced to ten years behind bars. While their release papers are being sorted out, Hardie’s father, George Senior is pleased that his son is coming home. He did, however, disagree with some of the reports in the media about how the incident unfolded. He gave us his version of what happened and brought us up to speed on his son and employees’ successful appeal.

George Hardie Sr., Owner/President, Las Vegas Casino
“What happened there were two unruly patrons that had a little too much to drink. They were asked to leave; they left and came back. They got up at the entrance and began shooting a gun and two of our security guards went up there to defend the property and the customers and the employees and one of the Mexican unruly patrons was shot. They weren’t life threatening; he recovered quickly. But my son who was taking a shower at his house came out and he was told that there was some shooting so he wanted to warn the Mexican Customs officials that there was shooting in the Zone area. He tried to call, but the calls did not get picked up so they drove over into Mexico and the rest is the problem we have. The problem was that the nine millimetre glock that they carry, which is a standard gun used by many police officers in the US, is only allowed to be used by the military in Mexico. So that created a problem. My son tried to check his gun, he held it out with two fingers to the Customs officer and they agreed with that. There was an effort to make an attempted murder charge, which a local judge in Chetumal decided was a ten year penalty. Obviously justice has triumphed to some degree because the magistrate and the tribunal in Cancun threw out that charge.”

Delahnie Bain
“The charges were thrown out based on what?”

George Hardie Sr.
“Based on insufficient investigation, insufficient facts to show that there was any attempted murder. There was certainly no intent by our guards to do anything but protect the property.”

Delahnie Bain
“So what do you think the conviction was based on then?”

George Hardie Sr.
“Well Mexico is different than any place I’ve ever been. Their laws are—there are no courtrooms, there are no trials, there are no juries, there’s no opportunity to confront your accuser. Everything is done by writing on a piece of paper what you claim happened. So a judge has huge leeway and when you have the press, in this particular case, run such a strong campaign that they were chasing the Mexicans and trying to kill them, which was totally untrue, there’s a lot of pressure on a judge to favour some evidence over others.”

Delahnie Bain
“When they filed the appeal, were you confident that they would be freed?”

George Hardie Sr.
“Well, it’s never over til’ it’s over. You don’t know. I mean the evidence shows, there were many witnesses, my son wasn’t even present when the incident happened. The unfortunate thing is there are two other guards that are still in prison that didn’t want to appeal; they applied for a transfer.”

Hardie Senior says the Belizeans were not subject to any ill-treatment and the vehicle used during the incident has been returned to him. He also says he hopes the government can assist the other two men in getting transferred to Belize.

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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