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Coast Guardsman charged with assaulting police officers and using threatening words, but his mother says there is more to the story

Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2023. 10:50 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: 24-year-old Coast Guard Seaman Shakeem Richards of Maskall, Belize District, has been charged with assault of a police officer (two counts) and using threatening words to the effect that he would shoot one of them.

The exchange between Richards and the officers – one of whom acts as a prosecutor at the Magistrate’s Court and the other a former driver for the Chief Magistrate – was captured on video and earned the ire of both Commissioner of Police Chester Williams and Commandant of the Coast Guard Rear Admiral Elton Bennett.

Richards appeared before a senior magistrate but as the charges were being read out, the court prosecutor asked for an amendment to the court book – the document listing the particulars of the charge. Apparently, the charges were not properly brought under the appropriate section of the law, as the original charge had been aggravated assault of a police officer and that the threatening words complained of were originally “Ah wah kill yuh,” which the prosecutor asked to be changed to “Ah wah shoot yuh.” He also asked for time to get detail as to a pending case Richards had before another court which he wanted this court to take into consideration on the matter of bail.

Representing Richards, defense counsel John Nembhard objected, suggesting that the prosecution had not properly been prepared and may even be malicious as nothing had changed from the time the incident occurred until the arraignment to justify the change, but the court allowed it.

Richards was then read his charges, pleaded not guilty and was offered bail of $2,000 and surety, which he has not yet been able to meet. When and if he does, he must ensure that he surrender his travel documents and not apply for any new ones without the court’s permission or attempt to leave the country, stay away from prosecution witnesses and report every Friday to the Racoon Street Police Station.

Late this evening, Richards’ mother, Agnes Thompson, was told that her son would be taken to the High Court on Friday for the prosecution to seek the revocation of bail of $15,000 on a charge of robbery. He is being kept overnight at the Queen Street Police Station until his court appearance on Friday.

Thompson told our court reporter that there is more to the story than what is public and that in her view, the police officers should be charged too: “He was provoked. I am not justifying [anything] because you have to call a spade a spade. Yes, my son might be wrong to manhandle the police, but he was manhandled as well. He was hit. The video didn’t show that he got hit, but the person who produced the video saw him get hit and he retaliated.” She also claims that the video witness saw the men talk and apologize to each other. The Police Commissioner has said that in his view his officers showed great restraint under the circumstances.

As for what precipitated the confrontation, here is what Richards told his mother as relayed to our court reporter: “He said he paid to get into the establishment and he was refused. And he wanted to know what’s the reason why he couldn’t have entered the establishment. And the two, one of the police just bombard him and drag him up in his shirt and be disrespectful, not knowing what type of person they’re dealing with. They didn’t even realize that it was an officer or a colleague until the whole thing [got] out of proportion.”

 

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