It was supposed to be the start of a season of celebration as Palm Sunday ushers in Holy Week, but this past weekend was filled with violence, accidents, and sorrow for many. Among the deaths that hit Belize City the hardest was the murder of John King, a musical artist and athlete. Many are questioning the motive behind this cold blooded shooting, since King was not known to be a member of any gang. News Five’s Paul Lopez has the story.
Paul Lopez, Reporting
Belizean musician and athlete John King was gunned down on Saturday night on Victoria Street. He was socializing inside this concrete house when someone outside shouted for “Evil”, the alias of a man who was also inside the home. King opened the door only to be met by a gunman who unleashed a hail of bullets. Kimberly Arnold was inside with her child at the time of the shooting.
Kimberly Arnold, Resident
“All I can say is that day, God turn me into a human rat, because when I heard the first shot I was about to say what the F is that. But, before I got to say the F it’s because I had to jump behind the bed, cover my baby with the two pillow, stuff myself in a hole like this. I had to stuff me and my baby in a hole like this between my bed and my wall.”
The gun man then fled the scene leaving in his wake John King’s body on the concrete floor riddled with gunshot wounds. Arnold is puzzled as to why anyone would target King.
“I could never explain to you what really happened, because it is not what had happened. It is what the person who did it thought when they came to do it. It is not that the incident has occurred because that is an innocent person. So you are asking me what happened. I can’t tell you because he didn’t do or harm anyone.”
And that is the sentiment we got from everyone we spoke to today about John King. He grew up in the heart of a gang ridden neighborhood known as ‘Jungle’ on the South Side of Belize City. But, by all accounts he was not into guns and the fast life. King often shared the struggles and challenges of his community through the music he made with Echo Middleton and Kyron Bennett of Team No Sleep Music. Both young men are devastated by King’s murder.
Echo Middleton, Team No Sleep music
“John music was always uplifting music. It was always uplifting. Never one day could I say John come to me with negative lyric, never one day. All his music dah bout him uplifting himself. He wants his friends to live a better life. Dah always the positive side ah life. Though we the guh through hardship,
dah always bout the positive side. One of his line eena his song, nuh matter how hard this life get, still have to hold it out. Right now I nuh wah lie to we the try hold it out, but this rough.
And John, when he come dah the studio I could be the person in a sad mood and he wah come nuh today, we the vibes.”
Kyron Bennett, Team No Sleep music
“Deh lef we bruk up. Deh lef the whole music community broken. Everybody the eena tears right now. You might nuh see it right now, but I the cry from last night fih my lee bway. Like literally, unu nuh know weh unu do to we, unu nuh know weh unu do to we.”
King equally loved sports. He played football at the highest level in Belize alongside one of the nation’s top players, Ian Gaynair. We spoke to Gaynair who lamented the senseless killings in Belize.
Ian Gaynair, Belizean Athlete
“Me as a football player, as a well known figure in Belize, just like the loss of Jermaine, the athlete world, we got to mourn because it could happen to anyone of us. The killing in Belize needs to stop especially with athlete. Everyone knows John King know he is not a problem person. John King was very talented. He know how to play football, know how to dance, how to DJ, could be a mic man. John King was an artist.
Me as a black man very worried. I worried about my life in Belize every day. Sometimes I feel like my life doesn’t mean anything, because if somebody come and do the same thing to me, nothing will come out of it. I would want to see justice but the way how our country is set it is hard to bring justice and see the criminal
King leaves behind a three month old son and a six year old son. Janelle King, his grieving sister, say the family hopes there will be no retaliation.
Janelle King, Sister of Deceased
“On behalf of my family I would hope there is no retaliation towards anything, because we don’t have knowledge of any beef that he has. He is a much loved person. If you notice on Facebook, everybody is pouring out love to my brother and it is much appreciated. For right now, all we are doing is just grieving.”
Musicians Hit Hard By John King’s Murder
Kyron Bennett of “Team No Sleep Music” says King’s murder is a serious blow to musicians seeking to shed a positive light on communities riddled with gang rivalry and drug warfare. Bennett expressed how unsafe he feels as they prepare to lay King to rest.
Kyron Bennett, Team No Sleep Music
“To me right now, to me I feel unsafe, because we are musicians and we nuh expect these types of things to happen. Yes, we live in a neighborhood or areas that are affected by gun violence but that nuh mean these young men or deh yah people weh the pull deh yah trigger fih come and just want shoot with no, we are artist in the end. You should know that we are here to represent you guys in the perspective of the hoods we are from. For you guys to do this it gives us no reason to say we wah stay in Belize or we wah continue to try to uplift our gang territories in Belize if this is how deh wah treat us. For me, this is like a slap in the face, you know what I mean.”
Echo Middleton, Team No Sleep Music
“We have more projects from him weh wah come out eena the future. But, at this point right now weh fih we heart deh and everything, how we feel, ih nuh wah be right now. Ih wah be eena the future. We wah try get his works out. Right now my focus dah pan the well being ah his family, his two sons and right now eena music we nuh have no pension and deh thing deh. His family really need the assistance fih bury we friend. We wah duh we part but we need dah assistance. The family need dah assistance fih bury we breda.”
Football Federation on King’s Death
News Five also spoke with Marlon Kuylen at the Football Federation of Belize who met John King in training. Kuylen says the F.F.B. seeks to create a safe space for young men and women from various backgrounds to flourish. What the cameras do not capture is the time spent investing in the personal lives of these young athletes off the field. They become like family, says Kuylen, and F.F.B. officials often times fear for the lives of their athletes when it’s time for them to return to their communities.
Marlon Kuylen, Football Federation of Belize
“You have to understand we get attached to these players, they become our nephews our sons, our daughters, we care for them. We try to get them out of the environment. We have placed almost thirteen of our girls and boys in college in the US, full scholarships so that they not only become educated, but they get better training and be in a professional environment and developed to represent our national team better. These are the kind of things we look at to get them out of the environment they are in to better their lives. I have had instances where I had to go and meet with certain players and this one in particular was ashamed of the area he was in and asked me to meet him somewhere else and you could see he wasn’t comfortable. I had to have a good talk with him because of his Facebook post and all the negativity. I told him if you want to represent our country you have to do better. Remember you are a role model these kids will look up to you. We do fear for our athletes’ lives and their safety, but unfortunately this is the era we are living in.”
King had been shot in 2021 at Same Location
John King had a prior attack on his life in June of 2021 at the same location where he was shot and killed on Saturday night. In that incident, King escaped with a gunshot wound to the buttocks. Police are now conducting an investigation to determine the motive behind this latest deadly attack.
ASP Fitzroy Yearwood, Communications Director, Belize Police Department
“Was hit by gunshots. He made it back inside the house where he collapsed in one of the bedrooms. Mr. King as rushed to the K.H.M.H. where he was pronounced dead on arrival.”
“Sir, this was not the first time he was shot in the same vicinity. Last year he was shot there.”
ASP Fitzroy Yearwood, Communications Director, Belize Police Department
“We have to allow the investigators time. Like I said, I don’t know if it was a matter of distraction for that person to be shouting for somebody else that they know resides there, but he was not shouting for John King when he shot John King upon him opening that door. So we will investigate this one properly and hopefully we can answer that question. Let me say that Mr. King is not known to any gangs or as a member of any. Like you rightfully said, he went back to the same place where he was shot or the same area. Many of us in Belize City are used to certain neighborhoods, and even though my vehicle was shot at on Yarborough bridge, that doesn’t stop me from going everyday to look for my parents living in that area. It is unfortunate that Mr. King was killed in an area he is familiar with.”