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Police Commissioner: Santa Familia shooting “unjustifiable force,” comments “damning”

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Posted: Monday, September 6, 2021. 1:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: “In my humble opinion, it is not justified. I believe that the force [used] was to some extent excessive.”

That pronouncement from Commissioner of Police Chester Williams weighs heavily as investigators dig into the fatal confrontation between soldier Jesse Escobar and a patrol led by Constable Juan Carlos Morales in Santa Familia, Cayo District on Sunday night.

Facing reporters in Belmopan this morning, contrary to what was issued by the Communications Director of the Belize Police Department, Commissioner Williams told reporters stated that there was no scuffle between the lawmen and the deceased, captured on surveillance video.

And while Williams believes there was unwarranted force used in this incident that ended with a BDF soldier firing a deadly shot that caught Escobar in the chest in front of his family, that is not an invitation to prejudge the investigation.

“It does not mean that because the force used was not justified, it simply means that it is murder. Unjustified force could also mean manslaughter, it could also mean manslaughter by negligence,” he continued, introducing the question of intent into a matter that ultimately goes for determination to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The Commissioner eschewed going into detail on whether Escobar was armed (he was not). He also noted that the comments made by the officers during and after the incident are “damning” and will also form part of the police file.

As for shoring up public confidence following the third such incident in the last few months, the Commissioner insisted his officers’ actions have belied any missteps.

We’ll have much more to come.

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