Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2022. 10:30 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Official police statements from those involved in the events surrounding the death of Derrick Uh, 20, also known as Derrick Pena, obtained exclusively by Breaking Belize News in a 20-page document, reveal that in the stress and strife of a party night in the Corozal District, a young man whose alleged sin was to have touched a woman’s buttocks without consent, appeared to have gotten lost in the shuffle, with tragic consequences.
According to the senior officer in charge, after Uh was detained pending a report of an alleged sexual assault by the complainant, the corporal and junior officer who took him in reported to the command center at the San Joaquin village fairgrounds, manned by a woman sergeant assisted by a junior officer.
The junior officer placed Uh inside the blue Ford prisoner van about 15 feet away, leaving the main door open to allow for ventilation.
When the San Joaquin Fiesta had finished, a debriefing took place in front of the command center by the senior officer in charge, among which he mentioned that one prisoner who had previously been detained for slapping his grandmother and who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, would be released; while the other, later identified as Uh, would be transported to Corozal Police Station pending the aforementioned report of sexual assault.
After the first prisoner was released, the junior officer at the command center handed over the keys for the van to a third officer, who drove the van along with a senior Sergeant to town and handed over the keys to the officer in charge there, a Corporal.
The Sergeant in charge of the command center in San Joaquin reported that she did not see when the van left as she continued to make entries in her diary; neither did she see who was driving.
The junior officer assisting the sergeant who handed over the keys did not remind his fellow officer of the prisoner inside because he had been present during the debriefing, while the driver, who stated he was not usually assigned to drive the van, said he had not been informed that there was a prisoner in the van and so he simply drove to the station and handed over the keys.
The last check of the van was made at approximately 2 a.m. when both detainees were still alive and before the first detainee was released about an hour later. The van is detailed to allow for ventilation inside the holding compartment when the engine is on.
Uh was later found motionless by the regular driver of the van around 3 in the afternoon, more than 12 hours later, when he went to refuel it at a gas station outside town and only made the discovery due to a foul odor coming from the back. He was described as motionless, nude, lying face down with dried blood coming from his face and nose and his clothes next to him.
Police have also obtained statements from the family concerning Derrick’s whereabouts and their identification of his body and from the initial complainant concerning the alleged sexual assault. It should be noted that there are some discrepancies as it relates to whether Uh was being detained for ‘common assault’ (i.e. a punch or a slap) as opposed to sexual assault (which was previously referred to as aggravated or indecent assault), a point made moot now by his death.
Police are awaiting a statement from the senior officer at the fair, who is presently out of the country. A post-mortem examination will also be held.
So far, no charges have been announced, but both Commissioner of Police Chester Williams and Prime Minister John Briceño have said there will be consequences for those involved. Breaking Belize News also notes that many of the police officers involved recorded their own witness statements.
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