The San Pedro Sun is currently investigating allegations of “unnecessary force” between Senior Staff Reporter Jorge Aldana and Belize Coast Guard officers. Belize Coast Guard Lt. Commander Elton Bennett and San Pedro Police Officer in Charge Luis Castellanos have fully cooperated with The Sun during this investigation.
On Saturday November 16th, shortly after midday, Senior Reporter Aldana was detailed to cover an apparent shooting incident involving civilians and members of the Belize Coast Guard. Aldana located and followed a San Pedro police truck making its way from the Dr. Otto Rodriguez San Pedro PolyClinic II to a lagoon location where a Coast Guard vessel was docked. According to Aldana, he followed the police truck that had three armed Coast Guard Officers in blue uniform and one police officer in plain clothes riding in the pan. The truck was transporting two men seated inside. They were bleeding and appeared to have head injuries. While Aldana followed directly behind the truck he snapped several photos of the individuals who were in the pan of the truck until they reached the end of Jewfish Street. Aldana claims that he stopped approximately 300 feet from where the police vehicle stopped.
“I was then approached by four Coast Guard officials while the others watched from a distance, making a formation that blocked my free passage from any angle. Three of the Coast Guards pointed their rifles at me and one approached me and asked what I wasdoing. I identified myself as a senior reporter with The San Pedro Sun Newspaper. I was then told to put my hands over my head. I asked what was the problem and he said, “Just comply.” I put my hands on my head; he removed my phones (two phones)from my front pocket and my wallet from my back pocket. He removed the chip from my DigiCell phone, put it into his phone and then returned it to my phone. He also erased all of the contacts from my SMART phone. They then asked me to lay down on the ground, and put my hands on the back of my head, face down,” recounts Aldana. “One Coast Guard put the end of his rifle to the back of my head. He said, “Don’t do nothing stupid or I will shoot your ‘r*ss’.” While on the ground another Coast Guard officer went through my carrier bag which was on the seat of my golf cart, removing everything. While he was trying to figure out how to delete the photos on my camera I turned my head to look at what he was doing and the Coast Guard holding the gun to my head used the point of the rifle to push my face away from observing what was happening and said, ‘What dif#%k yu di look pan…look di f#%k straight.’ I complied with his orders.All the while the other two officers held their guns pointing at me while I was on the ground. After getting the chip out of my camera and dismantling my digital voice recorder and discarding all of my belongings onto the ground he told me, ’Get the f#%k out before we shoot you.’ I just threw everything into my bag and immediately left the scene,” detailed Aldana.
Mr. Aldana claims this was done in plain view of residents who came out to see what was happening. In addition, three members from the San Pedro Police Formation were present, even stating to the Coast Guards that indeed Aldana worked for the newspaper. After the incident Aldana immediately informed The San Pedro Sun Editor, Tamara Sniffin, Officer in Charge of San Pedro Police Luis Castellanos and Belize Coast Guard Operations Officer Soberanis about the incident. Approximately one hour later, Aldana received a call from the police station that he could come and collect the memory card from his camera; everything was deleted from the card.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun