Posted: Monday, October 23, 2023. 9:25 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: This afternoon, police named one Michael Brown and Christian Espat as their chief suspects in the triple murder/mass shooting overnight on Ambergris Caye that left three dead and four injured.
But it was a surprise to learn from Commissioner of Police Chester Williams during a press briefing this afternoon that both men were in Police hands just last week following a police operation, one of those regularly conducted on the island, only to be released: “And I can tell you that since the beginning of this year the San Pedro police have removed over 20 firearms off the streets, including some very high powered weapons, and over 400 rounds of ammunition… as a matter of fact they did one just last week. And those two same individuals who are now suspects were detained as a part of that operation. But again you know, the Issue with attorneys, calling and pressuring the police and eventually they were released from custody. And then what happened last night took place.”
While not much is known about Brown, Espat is certainly no stranger either to police or to news headlines as the Commissioner reminded reporters: “…we are appealing to the public that if they have any information pertinent to their whereabouts, please feel free to call us so that we can go and remove these two dangerous criminals off our streets. You would know the name Christian Espat is not new. It has been called on numerous occasions for allegedly committing crimes of this nature.”
The Commissioner explained that in terms of a motive, some drugs were found by one of the deceased, who is reportedly a close affiliate of Espat, and it appears there was a quarrel between them because the drugs were not equitably shared and so he became a target. Police believe this theory is credible based on other sources.
As to claims that “rogue police officers” may be involved, allegedly “shaking down” certain individuals for weapons and/or drugs but leaving others alone, the Commissioner said he had not heard anything officially but encouraged those with complaints to come forward, reminding that Police have had no issues removing those kinds of police from the Department.
As for where Espat and Brown might be, the Commissioner said Police believe they are still either on Ambergris or another nearby island, but noted that Espat, in particular, has a bolthole that Police are monitoring: “We know that Espat has a history of when he is accused of committing these types of crime, he would normally flee to the Benque area. As we know he [does] have relatives in Benque. We are looking for him on land, seas and maybe even in the air. But he must be found.”
And when they are found, he added, the “callous nature” of the crime will ensure they will be convicted: “Obviously, they have no regard to not even the life of a child and when we have people like these, society should have no sympathy on them. No [three]-year-old should fall victim to gun violence and it doesn’t matter if they would want to say they did not know the child was there. You cannot shoot indiscriminately in a group of people and expect that you might not catch persons other than your intended target. It cannot be. We just have to make sure we work the case as best we can, [and] put forth the best evidence to make sure we secure a conviction and I am sure once we can do that, the High Court is going to do what they should do, putting them away for life.”
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