Chaos at Caye Caulker! A Brawl Breaks Out on Boat between Women and Police Officer

All hell broke loose onboard a water taxi on Sunday afternoon loaded with passengers returning to the city from the popular Lobster Fest held in Caye Caulker.  The brouhaha soon became violent and a young police officer was removed from the water taxi and subdued by another officer as he fell unconscious.  To make a bad situation even worse, homophobic insults were hurled at PC Ralph Gillett. Today, the police said it is investigating whether excessive force was used to restrain Gillett. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

A cell phone video showing a police officer in a rear naked choke hold and a boat filled with passengers, laughing and hurling homophobic comments at PC Ralph Gillett, went viral over the weekend. So did this one,  a video taken prior to the arrest of PC Ralph. It shows a violent brawl inside a San Pedro Belize Express water taxi a few minutes before the vessel departed Caye Caulker Village.

The physical confrontation was visibly between Gillett and a couple of women and it was over available seating on the boat. But it quickly escalated to a physical fight on board. The crowd was happy to see PC Gillett subdued, throwing homophobic remarks.

Caleb Orozco, Executive Director, UNIBAM

“At the heart of the issue is that a homophobic lady did not want to sit next to an effeminate gay man and decided to start a quarrel despite the fact that his friends had moved down to provide the lady with space. What I know from the witness account, there is a lady across the boat who basically yelled shut up you [bleed]. No gay men will ever tolerate disrespect like that so he replied come shut me up blah blah blah. That’s when the conflict ensued.”

The women reportedly threw a drink at Gillett but it caught his friend who was next to him. The physical fight then ensued. Neither of the parties was backing down and police intervened. PC Gillett was removed from the vessel. He was placed on a chokehold and visibly hit by a police officer while in an unconsciousness state.

Caleb Orozco

“The thing that disgust me about this case, the thing the riles me up is that the officer chokehold, in this case rendered a fellow officer unconscious , separately another officer slapped he in his head while he was unconscious. How can you show solidarity for a mob who was calling for the lynching of a person based on sexual orientation? The idea that an LGBT person and effeminate gay men should have no feelings, should tolerate disrespect from somebody who by the way was drinking.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Was PC Gillett drinking? They were coming from an event over the weekend.”

Caleb Orozco

“In that regard, from the information I gathered there was no drinking by the people, or the PC himself. But there was a drink thrown at PC Gillett that hit his friend who was next to him and it burn her eyes.”

Edward Broaster, Deputy Commissioner (Operations)

“Maybe you saw a different video from what I saw. I saw blows being hurled back and forth both by the officer in question and members of the public. As it pertains to the chokehold, we have not sanctioned that particular defense technique. Nevertheless the officer that hit him after will be dealt with disciplinary wise.”

The women who are seen in the video hitting PC Gillett were allowed to leave. From what we have heard, the Belize City women have yet to be questioned by investigators.

Caleb Orozco

“I have a question around that because if you have not demonstrated any common sense about bringing all parties together to get an understanding of what has happened why shouldn’t I call you out on your lack of common sense and ineptitude in your investigation process. Separately why is you as the ASP or in this case as the person in charge of Caye Caulker, why should you take is so personal that you don’t see it fit to bring in the witnesses who were there to explain what happened and threatened them to jail them for trying to explain what was happening. That to me shows that this man is so inept at his job he needs to be removed or relieved from his job at minimum.”

Edward Broaster

“You have to remember that individuals don’t have their phones out videoing the public until something triggers them to video. We at this time are not aware what transpired prior to and I am sure that the least charges that can be levied on the individuals   would be disorderly conduct if not other serious charges. When Caye Caulker police conclude their investigators as well as the Professional Standards Branch we will be determining what charges if any will be levied at the individual at or individuals in this matter.”

Gillett, we understand, was released without charges. His friend and colleague, who was present during the fight, WPC Arbunie Clare, was detained and from what we understand, charge sheets have been prepared for disorderly conduct.

Caleb Orozco

“The police department and in this case the officer at Caye Caulker cannot act as court, jury and executioner in matters of investigations. They must demonstrate a level of common sense. In this case Asp Crispin Castillo demonstrated no common sense in managing an issue which was manageable.”

Hipolito Novelo

“As a police officer don’t you think that PC Gillett should have practice restraint n dealing with some people?”

Caleb Orozco

“Not even these police officers know how to practice restrain when they are being challenged for a lack of common sense in the delivery of their duty.”

Edward Broaster

“Any incidents involving police officers that are not of a professional nature we condemn so I’ll leave it at that. We condemn all unprofessional conduct by our police officers whether in uniform, on duty or off duty.”

Hipolito Novelo

“They say that two wrongs don’t make a right. The actions of PC Gillett were unbecoming of an officer one would say, especially if he was sober.”

Caleb Orozco
“One can argue that the action was unbecoming…”

Hipolito Novelo

“He was kicking. He was stomping these ladies…”

Caleb Orozco

“At the heart of the matter, there is a fundamental point here the police should show common sense and be able to address and deflate a conflict that is occurring. They should be able to decipher the parties involve and bring some level of mediation and calm to a difficult situation.”

Hipolito Novelo

“As one would say Mr. Gillett should have used at that situation.”

Caleb Orozco

“What is clear here is that victim blaming or victim shaming has no place in the service of justice.”

Channel 5



Hate Crime or Just Halari Business on the High Seas?

Tonight, the police department is under scrutiny for how it handled one of its own when he got into a tangle with a mob of women.

Off duty officer, PC Ralph Gillett was on a water taxi returning from the Caye Caulker Lobsterfest when a minor dispute about seating turned into a full out brawl on the boat. How it ended and the suggestion of a hate crime motive, is what's causing controversy tonight. Here's the story:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
PC Ralph Gillette has won commendations for his exemplary work. Like this time when he kindly walked an elderly woman across the street. But, on Sunday he wasn't in uniform when he got on the water taxi leaving Caye Caulker.

Caleb Orosco, UNIBAM Advocate
"Ralph Gillette arrived on the boat, place a shoal next to him to secure a seat for his friend Britney Cherrington. There was a lady next to him who was also saving a seat for her sister. When the friend showed up and took the seat, the other person who was being reserved a seat got a little upset. Now. some words were exchange and Ralph essentially mentioned "I don't know why these people are quarrelling over a chair." It didn't take too long for a lady who was drinking on the other side of the boat to yell shut up you bla, bla, bla... So no gay man will be disrespected by anybody with homophobic remarks and Ralph answered 'you shut me up bla, bla, bla...' and that's when the conflict ensued."

An ugly conflict - that escalated to dangerous levels with Gillette stinking and being struck.

But the next video we see shows only Gillette - detained by his fellow officers - and then placed in a submission hold. He passes out - and an officer slaps him while he is unconscious:

Caleb Orosco
"I was completely disgusted. I was not surprised. It proved the point that there is a culture of punitive action in the police department which was in solidarity with the mob mentally of lynching this fellow who was already unconscious."

Indeed, the jeers and slurs from many on the boat can be heard as they watch this lawman brought low on the pier.

Caleb Orosco
"Not only did they placed this fellow in an unconscious state, they showed the public that they agreed with rendering the dignity of this individual worthless in front of the public eyes and for that I am completely saddened that in this day and age respect for rule of law means that certain parts of our citizen is of less value than others. The PC was arrested. The witnesses were threatened with jail time should they step into the station and I find that sad as well as recognizing that the people who triggered this conflict, this act of misogyny an act of homophobia were let go. The behaviour of the police department showed their willingness to amplify violence in the name serving the individual morality, instead of showing the value of respect for rule of law. In this regard the first thing I would call on is for the commissioner of police to conduct a thorough investigation as to whether homophobia was grounded in the behaviour of the officer to sleep hold this person until he was unconscious and for the other officer who deliberately slap this unconscious person who by the way is one of their own, despite the fact that he was not resisting in any way, shape or form. The culture of the police department to use brute force and ignorance in the investigation seems to be a normal thing. The culture of the police department seems to be to use violence to subdue persons and then ask questions later. That to me is a reflection of a culture that does not understand natural justice or due process. We cannot normalize solidarity the call for public lynching through the police department. We pay our taxes. For me its time for a change."

Cops Investigating PC Gillett Incident

We note that a woman who was traveling with Gillette says that the women - who are from Belize city - are the ones who aggressed him - and threw a drink in her face.

Now, what are police doing about it?

The cops say there is both a criminal and disciplinary side to the investigation and both are being n looked into:...

Edward Broaster, Deputy Commissioner (Operations)
"Those incidents that occurred in Caye Caulker are being investigated by the Caye Caulker police as well as the professional standard branch. We are investigating the incident as it relates to the police officer that had a fight with passengers of the water taxi as well as the incident subsequent to that incident where the officer was choked and detained."

Reporter
"Some in the LGBTQI community are calling the choking of the police officer - they are equating it to a hate crime and its one officer on another officer. What says the department in terms of that assertion?"

Edward Broaster
"Well that is no way close to the truth. There were several interventions to prevent several outbursts on the vessel and the officer subsequently subdued the individual who was belligerent in fighting with the passengers in the boat, so I would not associate that with no hate crime."

"As it pertains to the choke hold, we have not sanctioned that particular defence technique. Nevertheless, the officer that hit him after will be dealt with disciplinary wise."

Reporter
"Can you confirm if he is still detained and why? Will he be charged with anything?"

Edward Broaster
"Like I said when the Caye Caulker police conclude their investigation as well as professional standard branch, we will be determining what charges, if any, will be levied at the individual and or individuals in this matter. The least charges that can be levied on the individuals will be disorderly conduct, if not other serious charges. Any incident involving police officers that are not of a professional nature we condemned."

A statement this evening from UNIBAM says, "The coalition of LGBT led organizations demands that the Commissioner of Police ensure there is a thorough, impartial investigation of the entire incident, in particular of the actions of the Police Officers as well as the actions of the women who were involved in the assault and battery of this individual."

Special Envoy for Women and Children, Kim Barrow posted a statement saying, quote, "Watching that video breaks my heart - it shows we have ways to goViolence of this kind has no place in our society.The person attacked should have been offered protection and support by the police, why didn't this happen? Do we need to do a training sessions for our police officers on handling these situations? On how to address security for LGBT community?....Was a choke hold necessary? Is a slap to someone who poses NO THREAT at all warranted?"

Channel 7