Shootout between civilians and Coast Guard leaves one dead
Police on Ambergris Caye have launched two simultaneous investigations into a shootout between civilians and Coast Guard officials that turned deadly. The incident happened sometime between 10:30AM and 10:45AM on Monday December 15th, 21 ˝ miles north of San Pedro Town. Police claim that there was a shootout between civilians believed to be questionable ‘beach combers’ and members of the Belize Coast Guard who were on a special operation in the area.
Deputy Commander of the Coastal Executive Unit attached to the San Pedro Police Formation Inspector Henry Jemmott said that at the time of the shooting, the law enforcement officers were carrying out a joint special operation. According to Jemmott, six Coast Guard Officers were on foot patrolling along the beach in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve area when they came under gunfire. The law enforcement officers returned fire, fatally wounding one of three civilians. Jemmott told The San Pedro Sun that information gathered from the crime scene suggests that a second person may have been injured, but managed to escape along with another accomplice.
Workers in the area said that at least 15 gunshots were exchanged in an uninhabited area along the beach, located less than ˝ of a mile from the Belize-Mexico border on Ambergris Caye. “Police observed the motionless body of a Creole male, about five feet and two inches in height, with what appeared to be three gunshot wounds… one to his left hand, another to his right hand and one to the chest,” said Jemmott. The motionless body was found a few feet away from the beach, in the bushes. Police have identified the victim as Peter Castillo, originally from Punta Gorda Town. “Also recovered about 10 feet from the body was a pump action shot gun with six live rounds. A little distance away was a bag containing seven more 12-gauge cartridges.”
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Coast Guard Patrol Under Fire…Kills One Man
In San Pedro, there was also a loss of life. Investigations, both criminal and internal, are taking place into a shootout involving the Belize Coast Guard and three civilians in an area known as a hot spot for wet drops. The incident occurred this morning at around ten-thirty twenty-one and a half miles north of San Pedro Town. San Pedro police confirm the deadly exchange of gunfire occurred between civilians believed to be beach combers and members of the Belize Coast Guard who were on a special operation in the area.
The Deputy Commander of the Coastal Executive Unit attached to the San Pedro Police Formation, Inspector Henry Jemmott, says that the Coast Guard was on foot patrol along the beach in the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve area when they came under gunfire. They returned fire, fatally wounding Peter Castillo, who is originally from Punta Gorda. He was hit on his hands and chest. His lifeless body was found in a bushy area close to the beach; nearby was a pump action firearm with six live rounds.
There is reason to believe that another person may have been injured, but fled along with the third person. Witnesses say that as many as fifteen gunshots were heard in the area which is located less than half a mile from the Belize-Mexico border on Ambergris Caye. The Criminal Investigation Unit and Scenes of Crime attached to San Pedro Police descended on the scene this afternoon. San Pedro Police took custody of the firearms used by the Coast Guard and the six officers have also been cautioned by police. As we said, simultaneous investigations are taking place.
Coast Guard kill “playadores;” two others escape
The elite Coast Guard fighting unit, who were conducting an operation in the Bacalar Chico area of Northern San Pedro, about half mile from the Bacalar Chico Border with Mexico, was engaged in a shootout which ended with the death of a man who had allegedly fired at the officers at about 10:30 this morning, about 21 miles north of San Pedro.
Police say that when the Coast Guard returned fire at three men, one man was killed and one of the other two men was believed to be hit, but they both escaped. The Coast Guard did not sustain any casualty.
The dead man has been identified as Peter Castillo, Jr., 21, of the Water Reservoir area of Punta Gorda. He was shot in the heart and both arms, and died on the scene. His body was taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Morgue, where it awaits a post-mortem.
Inspector Henry Jemmott, the Deputy Commander of San Pedro police, told Amandala that they and the Coast Guard were conducting foot patrols in the area of northern San Pedro when one of the sailors saw three men, believed to be beach combers, or “playadores,” who normally search the area for drugs from wet-drops washing ashore. The men were coming towards them, armed with guns, said Jemmott.
The officers shouted at the men to stop, said Inspector Jemmott, but the man in the front, who was armed with a 12-gauge pump-action sawed-off shotgun, raised the gun and fired at the officers.
The Coast Guard immediately responded and returned fire at the men, and in the gunfire exchange, about 15 shots were fired.
After the shooting, police and the Coast Guard officers went to the area where the men had been and saw the motionless body of a man with three gunshot wounds, one in his left hand, another in his right hand, and one in the chest, said Jemmott.
The motionless body was found a few feet from the beach, in the bushes.
Jemmott said that they also recovered the sawed-off 12 gauge pump action shotgun, which was loaded. It was about 10 feet away from the body, and a short distance from the body, the officers found a bag containing seven live 12-gauge cartridges.
The San Pedro police believe that the victim and his two accomplices are “playadores.”