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Joel Benito Choco to serve four-year jail term – found guilty of shooting at police while fleeing a crime scene and keeping unlicensed firearm and ammunition

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2024. 7:45 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: 28-year-old Joel Benito Choco, who has been on remand for the past year, learned he will serve additional prison time for the offenses of aggravated assault and for keeping unlicensed firearm and ammunition, charges which stemmed from a gun busted aboard a local Ladyville bus, and for shooting after police.

On February 16, the senior magistrate found Choco guilty of three of four charges on which he was tried.

Choco was imposed a total of four years in prison – one year for aggravated assault and three years each for the ammunition and firearm offenses. His sentences are to run concurrently, so Choco, who got four years in jail with a deduction of one year for his remand period, will serve three more years behind bars.

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 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.

However, the presiding senior magistrate said she did not believe him as he did not try to challenge the official version of events 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 Choco had any knowledge that the gun was stolen, which is why she found him not guilty of that charge.

 

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