It was a moment of high drama that captured the attention of Belizeans on social media: a resort owner under fire from pirates who came ashore on his island. Even as he lay injured, he managed to reach out for help via Facebook. Duane Moody was on the scene Saturday afternoon to find out what happened and how the community came to the rescue.
“Private Heaven – it is a resort on Lark Caye located some six miles from the Placencia Peninsula. On Friday night, owner Christian Gusenbauer was attacked by some three to four thieves who stormed the island.”
ACP Joseph Myvett, Head, National Crimes Investigation Branch
“Sometime around 6:45 p.m. on Friday, whilst inside his home, he observed three to four male persons coming towards his home armed with weapons. As a result, he managed to secure his door, not before hearing a number of shots being fired at his home. As a result, he ran inside his room where he barricaded himself. Those persons manage to gain entry into his home where a number of shots were fired in the direction he was, which caused an injury to his right gluteal area.”
Even as an injured Gusenbauer locked himself inside a room, he took to social media asking for help. An employee at Boris Mannsfeld and Associates and friend of the victim received the alerts and immediately contacted law enforcement. Concerned residents organized a rescue operation of their own.
Christo Swanepoel, Friend of Victim
“I phoned the police station to ask if we could get out to the island. It was a little difficult to get everybody together, but we had a few people on standby. My colleague Kimberly helped to get all the boats together; at the end of the day, our friends from Vision Properties got their boats here the quickest and Miss Ramclam from the police department down here gave us the go ahead to take the police officers out to the island and we were there within forty-five minutes.”
By the time they arrived at Lark Caye, the assailants had already left. The victim was transported back to the mainland and rushed via ambulance to a private medical facility in Belize City where he underwent surgery for multiple gunshots. Police say Gusenbauer’s boat was stolen.
ACP Joseph Myvett
“During the robbery, a number of items were including cash were stolen as well as his boat key. And later he heard his vessel leaving the area. When the scene was processed, one or two of the windows were completely shattered so it would not have shown what number of shots was fired at that window.”
“Are you all able to say what type of firearms were used?’
ACP Joseph Myvett
“Apparently from the scene, it appeared that nine millimetre pistols were used based on some of the expended shells that were retrieved from the scene.”
On Saturday, the Belize Coast Guard along with personnel from the Fisheries Department and the Belize Police Department were out at sea visiting a number of fishing camps looking for evidence of criminal elements operating in the area. The stolen vessel was discovered around five p.m. about fifteen miles north of Placencia near Sittee Point. The engines were missing and a further search was conducted in the immediate area.
“We somewhat knew what the modus operandi of the criminal elements who operate in that area is. Many times when these vessels are stolen, they would sometimes immediately go across into Honduras. These are guys who understand the waters well; they know how to operate at night. So we quickly looked at cut-off points. So we mobilized and activated our patrols who were out there: Hunting Caye, we even brought up Barranco. We had our patrol at PHMR on the lookout. We brought in the two patrols that were operating with Fisheries at the time. We brought them into the Placencia area with the intent to intercept the vessel if there was an attempt to cross over into Honduras.”
Why Did Police Respond Two Hours after Attack on Lark Caye?
And the police’s response to the gun attack on Lark Caye also came under criticism. Reports circulated that it took the police two hours to respond to the caye which is located a mere six miles off the coast of Placencia. Today, Minister Kareem Musa told the press that the sea condition at the time was a major factor, but that the officers persevered and rescued the victim.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs
“You will know that it was an extremely rough day, extremely rough. We are talking three to four foot waves out there, that was when the cold front was coming in and so it was very difficult for the officers to get there but once they did they were able to rescue Mister Christian and take him to safety and now he is recovering well at the hospital so we are very grateful for that. He is a very good sport because he loves our country the same way that we do. I am sure that even though it was a horrifying experience for him, that he is grateful for the assistance that he received.”