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Joel Choco convicted of gun, assault charges over stolen gun

Posted: Saturday, February 17, 2024. 7:53 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Next Friday, February 23, Lord’s Bank, Belize District resident 28-year-old Joel Benito Choco will be sentenced after he was convicted of three of four criminal offenses: aggravated assault upon a police officer and keeping unlicensed firearm and ammunition for a CF98-9 mm pistol and a magazine loaded with 7 live rounds of ammunition, 6 S&B brands and one Luger brand round.

However, he was found not guilty of handling stolen goods.

Choco had been caught on board a Central Transit Bus heading from Lord’s Bank to Belize City on November 21, 2022, which Police intercepted before reaching the city.

The officers who responded to the bust each testified that one told the other that their suspect was running away from the back door of the bus which he exited. They chased and caught the man, who was later identified as Choco, though not before a stand-off that saw Choco point the weapon at one of the officers prompting a warning shot in response. Choco then tried to run further but was eventually subdued.

In his defence, Choco gave an unsworn statement claiming he was accompanying a friend to the City to obtain bullets for a gun. When the bus they were in was stopped, his friend ran off and he followed him and it was the friend who threw away the gun. The weapon struck a lamppost and fired a shot as a result, he claimed.

But the presiding Senior Magistrate said she did not believe him as he made no effort to challenge the official version of events with his own during the trial.

The gun in question belonged to the Government of Belize which was allegedly reported stolen from Police Officer Marcus Locario, an officer attached to the Prosecution Branch.

The Senior Magistrate told Choco that the Crown did not prove that he, Choco, had any knowledge that the gun was stolen, hence why she found him not guilty of that charge.

 

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