This week, we've been reporting on the alarming number of armed home and property invasions in the Cayo District - there have been at least five since August first, all of them involving various groupings of and variously equipped masked, armed men.
So far, a number of families have been terrorized but no one has been seriously hurt - that is up to last night, when an elderly American resort owner was cruelly killed.
Jim McFadzean has been out west all day and he has this report:..
Jim McFadzean reporting
The American businessman/Chiropractor was well known in the small community he lived, and only an hour before he became victim to the mindless violence that has been on the rise in the area, he was the guest of friends nearby for dinner. As a matter a fact, this photo you see of Johnson was taken only an hour before his cruel death.
What happened after he returned back home sometime around 9pm is anybody's guess. The Manager of his property told us what he found out from the man that ran to the rescue of Johnson after he was being attacked in his home by six masked men.
Voice of Manager of the property "According to him he was making tortillas in the downstairs and he hear the noises up there when Johnson call out for him. At the same time I heard him called out for Felix and Michael, so I thought that probably Felix and Michael was here."
Reporter "How many people did you hear?"
Voice of Manager of the property "According to the guy it was six of them. Only the police can give you more information about that."
But what the police has offered to tell us so far came in the form of a press release. According to their preliminary investigations, they found the 68 year old lying face up in a van, with injuries to both his face and arms. As the investigation reveals so far, six male persons with mask over their faces invaded the home of Johnson and proceeded to beat him. One of his workers heard his cry for help and rushed to his aid, but the Guatemalan laborer, Julio Funes was given a whipping by the men with a machete to his back and leg. The group of attackers then tied up both Funes and Johnson and placed them in Johnson's van where they proceeded to throw gasoline on them, and then left the area. The guess is that neither of the men had a match or lighter to complete their vicious and senseless act.
68 year old Lawrence Johnson maintained residences in both Belize and the United States. According to his friends he fell in love with the country and set up shop in the quiet village of Ontario some 20 years ago. Since then he built a small resort called the Iguana Creek Lodge, and then got involved in the trading of livestock and Arabian horses with the mennonites. But besides the business, he was an active member of the Belize Landowner's Association. This afternoon, two of his colleagues, both prominent members of the community spoke briefly about the last moments they spent with their late friend Lawrence Allan Johnson.
Dr. Errol Vanzie, Retired Public Health Officer "I saw him about 4 months ago. He usually go to the states to work for a couple of months and then he comes and spent the winter months here and during that time he was very active in the lands' owner association. We used to meet at his place for our monthly meetings. The last time I communicated with him was on Monday through email because he told us that he was coming to Belize and we were going to organize a meeting. That's the last I heard of him."
Jim McFadzean "Mr. Carr you have roots in Belize, you are a Belizean and you've been around here and everybody knows you, there is got to be some great concern about what's going on in the west right now. This is the 6th incident that involves x number of armed men breaking in and committing not only robbery but murdering innocent civilians. How safe to do feel?"
John Carr, Banana Bank Lodge "I am the president of the Livestock Association; we had a meeting this morning. We all kinda live on farms; we spend time on our farms with our cattle and stuff. You can't always be around all the time and that was a large part of our discussion this morning about how safe we don't feel and we feel very insecure and we are trying to think about how we will get hope. We think we will get hope when some justice happens and they catch people that commit crimes. Until that happens, we are very worried."
At midday today the police crime scene tape was still up at the Johnson's residence, indicating that the police are vigorously looking for clues still in determining the motive for this latest homicide.
No one has been detained.
Johnson's wife is expected to come to the country to tend to his affairs.
Johnson came to prominence some time ago as the former secretary of the Landowner's Association which was battling government on the sixth amendment.
Testimony to the increased level of violence in the western area of Belize came in the form of another senseless murder reported last night, Wednesday, November 9, 2011 in Ontario Village, Cayo District.
Dr. Lawrence Allan Johnson, 68, a native of New Mexico, United States, who is a certified chiropractor and permanent resident of Belize, was found dead, his body doused in gasoline.
Julio Funes, a Guatemalan employee of Johnson, told police that both he and Johnson were tied up and put inside Johnson’s van by six men who invaded the home that he and Johnson were in.
Funes survived but Johnson was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Western Regional Hospital.
According to police, the incident unfolded at Johnson’s residence in Ontario Village at approximately 7:30 p.m. Johnson was upstairs at his residence, which was used as a hotel for his invited foreign guests.
Funes was downstairs.
Funes told police that he suddenly heard Johnson calling for help, and when he ran upstairs, he saw six masked men beating Johnson on the floor.
“The men then caught Funes and started to beat him, whipping him with machetes over the back and leg. The attackers then tied up Funes and Johnson and stole assorted items from the house, value unknown,” said a police report.
The police then added that the attackers then took both Johnson and Funes and put them inside Johnson’s van, doused both men in gasoline, and then fled.
The circumstances were horrifying and the general manager of Johnson’s home, which includes a part-time hotel and a farm, told us today during an interview that Funes had recounted to him as much of the details of the incident as he could recall.
It was not explained by Funes why the men did not set them ablaze.
Another source, the property manager, told us that he was called by other workers to come to Johnson’s home last night: “They told me the man dead; when I came I saw him lying down on the ground.”
Funes, he said, was making tortillas in the bottom flat of the residence when he heard Johnson screaming for help and calling Funes’ name, along with the names of other workers who were not present at the time.
The manager told us that Funes, upon seeing the six masked attackers, tried to see if he could identify them before he himself was attacked.
He told us that when he saw Johnson, “The throat was swelling up and his head was swelling up so it looked like he got hit with something”.
Johnson was not a troublesome person, and had been planning on investing in medicinal farming, he said, adding that a team of medicine practitioners were scheduled to arrive in Belize within the next month and a half.
We were able to find out that Johnson has a wife in New Mexico, along with about ten children. He does not live in Belize fulltime, but travels back and forth, working in New Mexico during the summer and retreating to Belize for winter.
We also spoke with two of Johnson’s colleagues and close friends, John Carr and Dr. Errol Vanzie.
According to Carr and Vanzie, all three of them were members of the Landowners Association, which oversees environmental, petroleum and logging matters.
Carr, a resident of Belmopan, told us today that Johnson was, “a very good friend. I’ve known Mr. Johnson for over fifteen years or longer; we spent a lot of time together and the three of us [Vanzie, himself and Johnson] were very active in the Landowners Association.””
Apparently, Johnson had just returned to Belize this week. “I saw him about four months ago; we used to meet at his place for our monthly meetings. I communicated with him on Monday through email because he told us that he was coming to Belize and we would organize a meeting. That’s the last I heard of him,” Vanzie told us.
When asked whether he is now concerned about his own safety in this community, Carr said that because he is the president of the Livestock Association, he is very concerned. He said the matter of safety was discussed during a meeting of the Livestock Association today, and they have resolved to become more aware of the dangers to which they are exposed and their vulnerability in deserted areas.
Carr said, “We feel very insecure and we are trying to think of how we can get hope, and we think we will get hope when some justice happens, when they catch people that commit crimes. Until that happens we are very worried.”
Vanzie ended by saying, “I am shocked; I am still shocked; we miss him because he was the engine behind most of the activities we did in this association.”
Carr told us, “I am amazed at how life can change in such a short time; I can’t think of a reason why this should have happened.”
This reporter asked the two men whether a dispute could have erupted between Johnson and other persons involving issues over land. They told us that in the past, there have been minor disputes, but “nothing that would result in this”.
So far police have not detained anyone for this murder.
The brutal murder of sixty eight year old Dr. Larry Johnson in Ontario has left western communities reeling in shock. On Wednesday night, the house of the Iguana Creek Resort owner was invaded by six masked men who attacked the well known doctor and an employee, Julio Funes. The assailants later tied up the two men and put them in van that was doused with gasoline. Despite attempts by Funes to save him, Johnson succumbed to the brutal beating. On Thursday when we visited the scene, we were told that no motive was established although items were missing from the home. Today we confirmed with Belmopan police that four to five men from the villages of Black Man Eddy, United Ville and Ontario have been detained. No one has been arrested nor charged as investigations are still ongoing.
In last night’s newscast, PlusTV did an extensive report on the increase of home invasions in the Cayo district. As we reported, since August of this year, there have been 7 such instances reported to San Ignacio Police. No deaths were reported in connection to those instances of home invasions but today, we have another report of a home invasion in the Cayo District, and this time, a man is dead. The victim has been identified as sixty eight year old Dr. Lawrence Johnson, the proprietor of Iguana Creek Lodge in Ontario Village. It happened at about 7:30 last night. According to police, they responded to the scene at the Iguana Creek Lodge where they saw the lifeless body of Dr. Johnson lying in a van. He had numerous injuries to his face and arms. According to police reports, Johnson was reportedly accosted by a group of six masked men. Johnson’s employee, Julio Funes, reported to police that he heard his boss shouting for help and when he ran over to Johnson’s residence he found Johnson on the ground being beaten by six male persons with masks over their faces. We spoke to Dario Pinedo, one of the managers at Iguana Creek Lodge.
Dario Pinedo, Manager, Iguana Creek Lodge Well the only thing I could say is that he had a friend here with him and he was working and moving up and down. According to what I heard, he went to get some money and then they probably estimated maybe the man came back and did him something concerning the money. When they called me last night which was around nine, they told me that the man died so I should come see and when I came here I saw him lying down on the ground over there.
Journalist So you are saying that the suspect is the friend?
Dario Pinedo Well it must be the friend.
Journalist What kind of injuries did he sustain?
Dario Pinedo Well according to the way he looked, his throat and face were swollen, so it looked like he was beaten with something. The other guy said that he was taken from inside and placed in the van and they threw gasoline on top of him. When I came last night, I thought that the same guy who was along with him managed to take him outside, because he thought probably he was still breathing.
According to police reports, Julio Funez, after rushing to help Johnson, was also beaten and whipped with a machete over his back and leg. The attackers then tied up the men and placed them in Johnson’s van and threw gasoline on them. They then proceeded to burglarize the house.
Dario Pinedo Well I have known Mr. Johnson for some time doing his business here and a farm to the back and I am the manager for him. As far as I know, he was not doing anything wrong besides some misunderstanding with a chair-lady about a piece of land. So I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.
Journalist Is he married, does he have kids?
Dario Pinedo Oh yes, he has about ten kids and a wife in New Mexico. So she might be coming down sometime today or tomorrow; I haven’t really gotten the message yet, but she might come tomorrow.
Journalist Who presently occupies the building with him? Who does he live with?
Dario Pinedo Well we have a guy that is looking after the building when he is not here; most of the time he is out of the country. So this guy looks after the farm and then the other one looks after this place and I take care of them, every day I check up on them and see what they are doing.
Johnson was transported to the Western Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival while the employee was treated for his injuries. Johnson was an American National who had returned to Belize for a about one month and was to leave on Saturday to go back for a team of Doctors.
Journalist I understand that he had a group of doctors that were going to come in shortly?
Dario Pinedo Yes Sir.
Journalist What do you know about that?
Dario Pinedo Well we were trying to do farming there where they would make medicine, so the group was suppose to come in the next month and a half, but I don’t know what will happen now.
Journalist I understand that he was inside the building but he was trying to make himself out? Did he try to make himself out to get help?
Dario Pinedo Yes, he was trying to report them.
Journalist The other worker who was here with Mr. Johnson, he was injured as well?
Yes, he was beaten too. According to him, he was making tortillas downstairs and he heard noise out there and he heard Mr. Johnson holler for him. At the same time I heard them calling for Felix and Michaels, they thought that probably Michael and Felix were here.
Journalist When you said they called for Michael and Felix, are you talking about the people who came?
Dario Pinedo Yes.
Journalist How many people did you hear?
Dario Pinedo Well according to the guy it’s six of them.
Police investigation continues into this later murder.
Bandidos, vicious brutes with the morals of the ZETAS, or M - 13 have business people living in terror. Out in the WILD WEST. THREE WEEKS OF HOME INVASIONS.
There may be two groups? Another person, a 20 year resident, 65 year old, old retired chiropractor, murdered in a HOME INVASION by six armed men. After beating the man to death around the arms and head, they tossed him tied, while still alive in the back of a delivery van. His Guatemalan worker also. Then the merciless bandits, doused them with gasoline. Apparently they had no matches. Nobody smoked. So they left without burning them alive in the van.
What happens if you post a NO TRESPASSING SIGN on your property fence, arm yourself and then kill without hesitation, ANYBODY found on your property, that shouldn´t be there? What is the law in Belize? SHOOT FIRST ask questions later for tresspassers?
Where can you buy those SECURITY GUARD shot guns used in Guatemala here? They have just a pistol grip, are pump action, short barrel SECURITY GUARD weapons of choice for the store protection and home protection industry, in our next door neighbor Guatemala. That or a derringer would be my two choices. How complicated is it to get armed here?
===================== You need to do a very careful assessment looking at several factors: 1. Property you will be protecting: layout, footprint, distances, strategic defense points, and probable points/direction of attack 2. Day/night scenarios: night lighting, lines of sight, visibility 3. Numbers, both of occupants and "attackers" 4. Timing and the amount of warning time you would have, and psychological factors(do you want to appear armed?) 5. Weapon selection and combinations: rifle, shotgun, handgun and the caliber and capacity of each, also knives, clubs, other tools (such as sprays) and the storage points of each.
With the scenario you are describing, probably a combination of a pump shotgun and a 9mm pistol with a high capacity magazine would be where I'd start.
In regards to the pistol grip, you can get those for just about any model shotgun, I actually have one on my desk right now that was just delivered yesterday for my little Mossberg 20 gauge. Given all that, then you need to practice both for learning the weapon, accuracy, and "what ifs'.
=================== From what everybody says, unless you have some high-level contacts your chances of getting licenses for a pump shotgun or derringer-type handgun and ammunition are slim and none. ==================
The best security is to have a couple of noisy dogs with teeth, motion sensing flood lights in the darkest areas, and a back-up small caliber pistol to be retrieved only in extremely distressed situations. I am assuming you have a decent fence. Dogs do the trick every time for me, once properly cared for. And those 175 watt flood lights startle the hell out of any would be intruder. Security cameras are also getting very cheap and have led to quite a few arrests here in the heart of the Belize River Valley.
The heart of any good home security shouldn't be anchored by weapons. Sometimes they break in just to steal your weapon(s). I am very weary of having guns around.
Dogs, bright lights, and cameras work much better.
Last edited by Marty; 11/13/1109:29 AM.
#422054 - 11/15/1107:33 AMRe: American Resort Owner Killed In Cayo District
A post mortem examination has confirmed that 68 year old US National Lawrence Allan Johnson died from a brain hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma. As we reported, Johnson - a certified chiropractor, was attacked in his home in Ontario Village on Wednesday night by a group of six armed men. They beat him and his caretaker viciously, and then left them doused them with gasoline. Johnson did not survive.
Police initially detained a number of men form the surrounding villages, but no one has been charged. Suspects include former employees.
According to US news reports, Johnson moved to Belize form New Mexico in 1993 after a dispute over taxes.