Monday, June 17, 2024

13 of 28 escaped prisoners recaptured; one killed during recapture

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On the evening of Monday, October 12th, 28 prisoners managed to escape from the Belize Central Prison in the Hattieville Area. A manhunt was immediately organized and has been ongoing, with around half of the escapees recaptured or turning themselves in. One of the fugitives was fatally shot during an altercation with authorities in the first days following the historic prison break.

According to Chief Executive Officer at the central prison, Virgilio Murillo, two prisoners were identified as the prison break leaders. Carlos Montejo and Jose Guerra overcame the on-duty guards and opened the cell gates for 26 other prisoners to escape. Virgilio said the incident took place around 1PM when they held several guards hostage and waited until sunset to escape. One of the prisoners took a rifle from the guards.

In the first days of the search, Commissioner of Police (ComPol) Chester Williams did a flyover on strategic areas. One of the first inmates to be recaptured was Mark Pelayo, who was caught by the Burrell Boom road. Some minutes later, inmate Akeem Tillett was killed by authorities in the Coastal Road area when a shootout left two officers were injured and Tillett dead. In the same vicinity in an orange orchard, inmate Christopher Bradley was recaptured, and shortly after, George Bednrick was nabbed. Since then, ten other prisoners have been recaptured, with a group of five taken back into custody on Thursday, October 15th. They include Phillip Bowen, Deandre Guiffaro, Darren Vasquez, Victor Galeano, and Joel Sierra.

It is an offense to shelter a fugitive

Commissioner of Police Chester Williams reminds the public that harbouring a fugitive is a criminal offense, and anyone doing so can be criminally prosecuted. Williams appealed to the loved ones of the escapees and the public that if they know of their whereabouts, to turn them in. He warned that these fugitives are considered armed and dangerous.

Investigation into prison break continues

Ministry of National Security’s Chief Executive Officer, Retired Colonel George Lovell, said that the government would commission a private investigation during a press briefing. This will aim to ascertain the chain of events that led to the prison break and if any of the guards took part in the escape.

Human Rights Commission of Belize weighs in

On Friday, October 16th, the Commission expressed its extreme concern and regret over the violent events that took place at the Belize Central Prison, leading to the escape of prisoners. They believe that the escapes, injuries, and death could have been avoided if the Visiting Justices System was in place. The system appears to be absent for some time now. The Commission strongly recommends its reinstatement and appointment.

The Prison Act gives the Justices the right to have access to every part of the prison once a week and to hear and investigate any complaints a prisoner may make. The institution believes that perhaps if this system was in place, the events that started on October 12th could have been avoided.

In the meantime, 14 prisoners remain at large, and the search to recapture them continues. The outlaws are believed to still be within the Belize District, and the public is advised to be cautious and call 911 with any information that may lead to the apprehension of the escapees.

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