Tonight, San Pedro police are investigating several of their own after they gunned down and killed a prisoner who had been on the run for 10 months. Police say that he got into a shootout with him, and having to defend themselves, they fired back, and that's why he was killed.
That prisoner is 24 year-old Juan Carlos Martinez. They finally caught a break in the case last night when they received information that he was hiding out at a house in the San Pedrito area. But, according to those on-duty police officers, everything went south when Martinez fired at them.
Our news team was on the island today looking for answers. Courtney Weatherburne reports:
Voice of Resident "We heard the gunshots and we came out and see we were surprised what the happen because da first time we the hear about it. So we came and when we saw shootings, well we saw the man running and after that he was shouting for help. When we saw the police light about to see if they could find ah in the area and they find ah and then they shoot up ah rights."
Those gunshots struck and killed 24 year old convicted prisoner Juan Carlos Martinez. Police had been looking for him since December 2015 when he escaped from police custody on San Pedro.
ACP Dezeree Phillips - OC, Eastern Division North "He was convicted and serving a 10 year prison term for unlicensed firearm and ammunition and a wanted poster was issued. Sometime around the 13th of December when he escaped from police custody right here in San Pedro. He had been removed from prison to appear in magistrate court to attend court case for several charges he had before the court that includes burglary, aggravated assault, robbery, firearm and ammunition offenses."
Islanders have been helping the police with tips but they were never successful in catching him.
Until last night when they were called out to a Lagoon side house in the San Pedrito area. Martinez was allegedly hanging out at the home when police showed up. That encounter turned into a deadly shootout.
Supt. Sandra Bodden - OC, San Pedro Police "Upon the arrival at the location they identified themselves as police officers after surrounding the house and that was when a fair skinned male person ran out of the house and he jumped from off the veranda into the lagoon. The police jumped in and set chase after him and whilst in the pursuit of this male person the police heard several gunshots being fired towards them. As a result they returned fire."
Police say that after the gun blasts, they found Martinez dead among these mangroves. It might seem like an open and shut case but according to the San Pedrito resident we spoke to off camera, Martinez was still alive after the police shot him and that they allegedly finished him off.
Voice of Resident "I thought they caught him or something after that he was shouting for help but don't kill him and after that they reach and kill ah, like 6 gunshots they did to him."
Police say they are looking at all angels and reports as they do a thorough investigation into this case.
ACP Dezeree Phillips - OC, Eastern Division North "The commissioner of police has directed both a criminal and internal investigation be carried out in this matter and that has already been launched and we just want to assure the public that a very in-depth thorough transparent investigation will be conducted into this matter. He was considered armed and dangerous so that is very important for the public to understand it's not just an ordinary citizen you would say the police were pursuing. Were pursuing somebody who had very long history of criminal activity and had every intent to cause injuries to the police before injuries caused to him, so we had considered him to be very armed and dangerous."
But no matter how armed and dangerous Martinez was, he was someone's loved one.
Jorge Martinez - Father "I know he wasn't a good boy and I expect anytime this will happen to him not only by the law hands but by criminals and so it happens and I'm not blaming anyone but it happens and already done."
"I will always remember him because when he was a kid we have some nice times together but since then become a man, they choose their own life and that's what they choose." 8 shells were found at the scene. Police are still looking for Martinez's weapon. As you heard there are conflicting reports as to what happened but police say they will continue investigating.
The cops say that up until December 13 last year, Martinez was serving a ten year sentence for firearm offences which occurred in March 2015 in Benque Viejo Town. He reportedly escaped from the custody of San Pedro Police on that day. He was supposed to have attended magistrate court for the charges of Robbery, Burglary, Aggravated Assault and Firearm offences.
Martinez's dad told us that this is his 3rd son he is losing, one went missing and has not been found, the other is in prison and now Juan Carlos is dead.
Police Continue Investigations Into Shooting Death of San Pedro Fugitive
Twenty-five-year-old Juan Carlos Martinez was killed, allegedly at the hands of Police, on the island of Ambergris Caye on Tuesday night. A fugitive from justice since December of 2015, Martinez was considered armed and dangerous, and police say he engaged in a shootout with them before succumbing. But there are other accounts which suggest that he was calling for help and standing down from police before his death. The Department’s Professional Standards Branch has opened an investigation on the order of Police Commissioner Allen Whylie, who gave us an update today.
Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police
“The Professional Standards Branch commander was dispatched out there, as well as the O.C.E.D. North, A.C.P. Phillips, as well as other C.I.B. investigators; they have been working on that case, they have been interviewing the officers involved in those shootings, and we are doing the niormal process in terms of a criminal as well as an internal investigation. It’s an unfortunate incident, but as police officers when we took the Oath of Office and we signed up for this job, we knew that we were putting our lives on the line to safeguard the citizenry, and whilst there have not been many occasions where people have resisted and have shot back at the police, we live in the real world and we need to be prepared for when such situations occurred.”
While not similar, as Martinez was a fugitive rather than in police custody, this is the latest in a series of deaths recorded on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker in which Police were involved. Commissioner Whylie noted that in each case the circumstances were different and to varying degrees, the officers involved in each case were or are being held accountable.