Posted: Monday, February 1, 2021. 3:44 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A police constable and Belize Defence Force soldier have been arrested and charged for manslaughter, not murder as previously, in the 2018 death of Ariel Audinette Salazar.
Police Constable Leenart Cajun and BDF soldier Bladimir Escarraga are two of the eight lawmen formerly assigned to the Belize Special Assignment Group (BSAG), now Special Assignment Team, who in 2018 allegedly took the law into their own hands.
After receiving a complaint about a missing cellphone, the men stormed Salazar’s home and beat him and his companion Oscar Payes severely, causing fatal injuries to Salazar and severe injuries to Payes.
But the case was struck out in court and police were made to conduct further investigations, upon which the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered the men’s re-arrest on the lesser charge.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, who as head of Professional Standards Branch led the Salazar investigation in 2018, commented that the work of weeding out bad apples involved in everything from common assault to drug trafficking is to satisfy a public “clamoring for a more professional police department. We have a minister who is working with us doing his best to see how we can make the department more professional and so as a department we need to do differently. We need to ensure that we hold officers accountable for their wrongdoing.”
The Commissioner also commented on the separate case of Constable Edgar Teul in San Jose Succotz. He “was utterly wrong. He violated that young woman without her consent and she made a report and he must be dealt with,” the Commissioner said, while also refuting claims of cover-up in the Department for alleged police wrongdoing: “ … I want to make it emphatically clear once a police officer is wrong with me, they are wrong.”
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