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Survivor of San Pedrito mass shooting tells story as victims’ families bury loved ones, call for justice

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2023. 10:27 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The chief suspects in the murder of Amari and Delmar Rodriguez and Carlos Chi are behind bars, and in the last few days their loved ones have laid them to rest.

Now the hard work begins to build the case that will convict the alleged killers, one of whom has already tried to establish an alibi.

But a key witness and victim of the gunman has told his account of the shootings to CTV-3 News in Orange Walk, not showing his face but giving his name – Lionel Cornejo.

Cornejo says he saw and recognized the first shooter as their golf cart turned the curve, face not masked and wearing dreads: “…the man run straight up into the golf cart with a handgun in his hand, he ran straight up into the golf cart and point it at Delmar Rodriguez, his wife, and the baby and he squeezed. When he squeezed the gun, I couldn’t even count it because it fired so rapidly, I think like twenty or more shots came out of that first one.” He then recognized the second shooter as Christian Espat following behind, also armed.

Cornejo said he counted at least 20 shots fired by the first shooter, which led him to conclude that they did not properly conceal themselves because they were sure their targets would be dead and not able to identify them.

The pair fled by boat and Cornejo, who had managed to reach hiding, came out and saw Delmar Rodriguez already dead, Carlos Chi, his cousin, bleeding out in a yard, and a still-barely alive Amari Rodriguez. He decided to try to get the three-year-old to the Polyclinic to save her life and left Chi behind, something he hopes he will be forgiven for. Unfortunately, the effort was in vain as Amari died as well. Cornejo has been left in constant pain and needs a cane to walk after sustaining injuries to his side and leg.

Cornejo told CTV-3 he discharged himself from the hospital after 13 hours because he suspected there were efforts to try to silence him, and even though Espat may be in jail, he has enough pull that someone could try to eliminate him. He also insists that he, Espat, has “police in his pocket.”

He also confirmed the alleged motive for the crime, saying Espat was always greedy concerning the finding of drugs on the island and that ever since ‘wet drops’ appeared on the island, money changed a man he considered a friend.

Espat has publicly denied involvement, saying he was away seeking treatment for injuries allegedly caused by police brutality while previously in custody.


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