Another grenade was thrown in the city last night - the first since the Kraal Road attack on December of 2009.
In that 16 month interval, all of us, city residents in particular, had maybe hoped that somehow the grenades - 24 of which went missing from BATSUB in 2004 - had maybe magically vanished, or gone missing - but, that's just a fantasy - the reality is that there were 18 of them still in the possession.
Well, there are now 17 after one was thrown in the Lake Independence Area of Belize city last night. Very fortunately, it failed to detonate and no one was hurt. But looking at the close-knit neighborhood where it was thrown, tonight's news could just as easily have been about the most heinous and deadly attack of the urban terror era.
Again, thankfully, it is not. Jules Vasquez found out why when he was on the scene last night into the early morning:
Jules Vasquez Reporting:
This is the L109a1 grenade, a British type grenade, exactly where it landed on Moya street in the Lake Independence area. Its appearance is slightly different than when it was thrown, because, after recovery, it was wrapped with electrical tape by the BDF to secure the pin to so that It doesn't explode.
Lt. Col. David Jones
"When I came out here, I saw the grenade on the Street over there. I approached it carefully, and when I got there I noticed that it was in a dangerous situation. So I had to be careful how a pick it up because if I didn't do it properly, it would have gone off. If someone else would have touched it accidentally, if a dog or an animal would have passed and touched it, it could have gone off."
And why didn't it go off? Jones didn't want to discuss too many details.
Lt. Col. David Jones
"Let's just say that it was fortunate that it didn't function as intended. The grenade did land; the safety pins were pulled. It didn't function as intended, and it is fortunate that it didn't because people could have been seriously hurt here tonight."
And that very live threat is why the police, the BDF, the media and about two dozen area residents had to wait just about three hours with the grenade on the ground - probing it with flashlight beams from a measured distance for clues. They were waiting for Jones to come. He was at a military conference in San Pedro and had to be flown in by chopper to the impromptu landing area in front of the KHMH - where there was a massive stir of dust as he ran out directly into a waiting BDF van which ferried him to the scene.Jones picked it up in a few seconds and even had it profiling for the police cameras.
Lt. Col David Jones
"Within 50 meters of this grenade, people could have been killed or seriously injured. It was at the junction of the road, so there were three different road areas which people could have been affected, or two houses close to the grenade itself. There is a wooden over there with the zinc fence, which was the possible target. Had it landed on that house, it could have caused serious casualties if anyone was inside, because it was wooden. It wouldn't pose that much danger to the concrete houses, but if anyone was behind the doors or the windows for the concrete houses, they could have been seriously injured as well. People are normally in small groups around this area. Had the grenade landed in their area, they could have been killed or seriously injured because people are normally in groups."
Indeed it is a well populated close knit community where residents are always outdoors. And one person to come in contact before Jones was a 15 year old who asked to appear off camera. He was the one to show it to police:
15 year-old resident
"Two of the police came, and we told them that I could go and show them the grenade. And when they went with me, two of them ran away and left me behind. One of them was "jumpy" and he left."
"But you showed them the grenade; you had physical contact with it?"
"Yes, I saw it without the light; they needed the light. I felt something, my foot brushed it by mistake, and I jumped away because I didn't notice it at first."
"Were you concerned that it might explode?"
"Not really, because if we were to die because of this, it would have happen a lot earlier, but the men who did this are playing with people's lives. They could have taken out innocent people."
And to appreciate how real that threat was we had to go back this morning to the cluster of junctions and streets.
This is the corner Lavender street, where the street light doesn't work and the person hurled the grenade across Flamboyant street towards Moya Street where it landed more or less where that dog is seen sniffing around.
That's across the street from this clearing where three women, two children and two young men gathered. Reports say they saw someone throw something, shouted at him and ran.
"Who usually hangs out in that area where they threw the grenade?"
"Right there were women and children."
"And is it usually women and children who hang out there most of the times?"
"Yes it's usually women and children who are in that area."
"So then, why would they throw the grenade there?"
"It's like they don't have any "sense". They don't seem to know what they were doing."
And it is just about 25 feet away from that pink House where a community elder, 67 year old Harrington Grey lives - he was sitting where he does every night - right beside a wooden window - which the fragments from the grenade would have minced to bits:
"I've been sitting there for almost 28 years now, from this place opened up in 1980. I came back here in 84, and from then I've been sitting down at that window every night; everybody could see me sitting down at that window every night. So unknowningly to me last night, that incident happened. And probably, if it went off I obviously wouldn't be here for this interview. I don't have anybody to blame or anything like that; It's us the citizens who have to try to control that, because you see governments after governments who can't control this thing. So, I believe that it's us the citizens who have to try to to do something about it."
Police say they are trying and we saw them make multiple patrols in this area just in our short time there this morning. They call it enforcement but the young men call it harassment:
"I would want Mr. Blackett to stop these men from harassing us; we are not doing any kinds of crime. We are just hanging out; we don't have a job, so we just hang out. That's how we eat, especially a man like me. I eat everyday off the street by hustling."
"But then obviously somebody has a serious "beef" with you all to throw a grenade in the area."
"Hear what's happening with that grenade thing. The policemen, some of them, are setting it up."
And while they blame the police for everything, the police say the community must help:
Sgt. Fitzroy Yearwood, Police Press Officer
"We are asking the public-"
"But at the same time the public is asking you all."
Sgt. Fitzroy Yearwood
"We are trying."
And last night that effort was visible as the police, scenes of crime team and the BDF came back to the scene after midnight to look for some more clues:
Lt. Col. David Jones
"I came back to the scene to try and determine from where the grenade was thrown. Based on where it landed, I have been looking for the safety clip, which normally come off before the grenade is thrown. I went to street over there, and that's exactly where the clip was, which told me that definitely, that's where the grenade was thrown from, and this was the intended target over here."
They found the safety clip - which is that pewter colored object and carefully dusted it for fingerprints.
Lt. Col. David Jones
"The grenade was corroded. The body was corroded, which indicates that it was buried somewhere. Also, there were fragments of some pieces of cloth on the grenade, which means that it was probably wrapped, and because of the damp condition of where it was, it caused some corrosion. It is a danger due to the state that it's in, because the corrosion could have corroded the pin, and whoever picked up the grenade, if the grenade was severely corroded, the grenade could have gone off in their hands. So the state of what that grenade is, if there are more out there, it could be a similar state of the rest as well, and it is a danger to whoever has does grenade."
Marisol Amaya, Krem News
"Can you state for the record how many grenades are left of that batch?"
Lt. Col. David Jones
"I recall, I think, there was about 18 unaccounted for. With this one recovered, there probably about another 17 out there. There is a strong possibility that more of these grenades will be thrown, since we know that they are out there. The possibility is strong that there will be more because gang warfare continues on the street. These guys find whatever means that are necessary to try and retaliate against each other, be it deadly or serious. But it is very likely that they are going to use more again."
It is no overstatement and enough to strike fear in anyone - except the youth of this neighborhood:
"You can't be afraid; you just have to live up to what you are doing. It's them who are out there who have to know what they are doing as well."
"You live in the heart of what is known as "PIV". Is this something that concerns you? Because there is violence directed at these people."
"I'm definitely concerned, until I reached the situation, even though I'm back here for almost 28 years now, if I found it affordable to move I would move today. Not to say that the neighbors have anything to do with the situation, but it has just become more dangerous."
Police believe that the grenade was thrown as a product of gang warfare. The Flamboyant Street area is known to be the base of the PIV gang, PIV for Peace in the Village, or, alternately, People in Violence - depending on what's the setting, both interpretations are used.
For those who've forgotten, tomorrow night we'll have a refresher on the history of those grenades in Belize.