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Early on Sunday morning when three gunmen strode into the Wabinaha bar in Hopkins - it created a scene of unthinkable public terror in a tiny and peaceful village. Imagine, scores of patrons - having a good time on a long weekend, suddenly trapped inside a bar and club with no emergency exit, dashing for cover as gunmen stood at the entrance - which is also the only exit - emptying out their pistols.

Yes, indiscriminate gunmen stoke fear in almost every community; yes, so many towns and villages have known murderous violence - but an indiscriminate mass shooting - how could it happen in Hopkins? That's what everybody is asking and Courtney Menzies went down south for answers:

Courtney Menzies:
Two men dead, three police officers shot and five civilians - including a fifteen year old girl - are left injured after Belize's first mass shooting.

It was Sunday morning in one of the last places you'd expect an incident of this magnitude - the small, normally peaceful village of Hopkins.

But the festive atmosphere of Hopkins Day was shattered when three men kicked open these doors here at Wabinaha Nightclub and began shooting into the crowd - they stood at the entrance firing, while the trapped patrons could only scramble desperately for their lives.

And, as the village - and the rest of country - begin to come to terms with the kind of violence residents typically only see on TV, the families of the victims are asking why.

So, we travelled down south to find out more about the terrifying and traumatic events of that night.

And according to the Commissioner on Police, who has been on the ground since Sunday, the shooting began with the suspects' unsolicited advances towards the first victim, 23-year-old Noah Moro's girlfriend.

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"He was there along with his girlfriend. They were socializing at the nightclub like other patrons were. These men, the accused men, approached the young lady that Moro was with and began to court her. She was not paying them any mind, and she told them she was with someone. The guy Moro came and inquired what was taking place, and there was an altercation, an argument between the two sides. The suspects left briefly and came back into the nightclub by stomping the door open, opened fire first at Moro and then indiscriminately in the nightclub, hitting the other person who died and eight other persons, including three policemen. Following that, they left the nightclub and got into two vehicles. And so that we believe the motive based on eyewitnesses account is due to the woman who was with Mr. Moro at the particular time at the nightclub."

And the suspects raced off, leaving behind two innocent dead men whose families say were justing trying to enjoy their weekend.

Courtney Menzies:
"You know, people are saying that he was protecting his girlfriend, do you know him to be a protector like that?"

Voice of: Arlene Moro, Sister of Deceased
"That I would agree with and I even told her that Noah died being your hero. I mentioned that to her so I do agree with that statement. He was not a trouble person, he's not a trouble person whatsoever. He was the most loving individual and we had a close bond, unbreakable bond so he wasn't a trouble person. Actually he went down to Hopkins given that he and his girlfriend were together for ten years and they wanted to take a trip, a little mini vacation. He wasn't a frequent traveler but it was somewhere that they always wanted to go."

But his young life was cut short in that moment, his dreams of helping people dashed in a second. Still, his sister says though his life was short, it was full of ambition and memories.

Voice of: Arlene Moro, Sister of Deceased
"His last job because he recently resigned from Western Regional where he was an attendant there and of course he was also pursuing an Associate's Degree in Primary Education so that there in itself made us bond more since I am in the education field as well. And like what I told my mom, she can be comforted with the life that he lived."

"He loved his family, he loved his nieces and nephews unconditionally. He was firm with them yet loving. And of course he loved football, I remember when he went to Costa Rica."

Courtney Menzies:
"And so his dream was to become a teacher to help young children."

Voice of: Arlene Moro, Sister of Deceased
"Yes he wanted to be a teacher and as well he wanted to pursue criminal justice. We try to be comforted by the biblical truth and nonetheless we are grateful to have spent a wonderful 23 years with him. Like I said, the life he lived speaks for itself and we are just grateful to have been a part of that."

And just like Moro, the other victim, 56-year-old Emilio Garcia, died protecting the other patrons in the club. According to his family, he was trying to close the club's doors, when he stumbled over a body and the gunman shot him dead on the ground. And this father left about 20 children and a host of grandchildren behind. And it was one of his sons that told us that his father died a hero.

Candido Garcia, Son of Deceased
"I wasn't here but I know my pa wouldn't just stand and watch a lot of people get shot. And this is a family club, this is a family club because we are the family too. And the way how things gone off, I am hearing a lot of explanation, they told me the guy just came in a start buss shots like he wild. Yeah he buss shots like he wild because he brought down my father too. But my father didn't just drop just like that. If they didn't do what they were supposed to do, how many other people would have died? How many other people would have gotten hurt at the same time? My pa definitely die as a hero, definitely, Emilio Garcia that."

"Because that's my next half. And the biggest thing that hurt me, that's the biggest puzzle out of my life, like right now, nothing matters me. I wanted to come to Hopkins that night so bad, but the people they left me, I don't know if they didn't reach, all this creation and everything that's happening, it makes no sense to me because my pa is not a trouble man. Next thing, it's not like they don't know my pa, everybody know my pa, my pa go from here and there. Everybody knows Emilio, Emilio is not a trouble man."

In fact, Garcia spent his life working alongside his brother doing community service in the village. His brother, Marlon Flores, explained that he wasn't surprised that Garcia was killed while trying to save lives.

Marlon Flores, Brother of Deceased
"He's a father figure to me, growing up my pa commit suicide. That's my best friend, he's an adviser whenever I have problems, we go talk. And for them to chance him out of his life, I don't see it where there's any replacement because I know that knowing him, he gonna do whatever to save lives. It's a sad moment that I wasn't out here to help him save lives because what happened is a disrespect for the whole world, for the whole country, for the whole village, for the whole community because at the end, I don't understand what in these guys' mentality to go, you have an enemy in a club, and you shoot everybody else to get this enemy. That's [terrorism], they are terrorists."

And according to Flores, Garcia could be called on, day or night, no matter what.

Marlon Flores, Brother of Deceased
"And I tell them, I make them know, you all hurt somebody that was helping to save lives. One thing with death, you don't invite it, it just shows up. But its the stupid people that created it got me going through this. And we're going to go through it, we're going to go through it, because one thing, the general is going to go up with honors. Because everybody in this community know you can call on Emilio any time."

So, two protectors gunned down - one well-known father and one young man full of dreams - taken from their families without warning.

And now while these families grieve, they anxiously await the outcome of the investigation.

We note that this is not the first or worst mass shooting in Belize's history; that would be in 2008 at the Putt Putt Bar and Grill, when two men opened fire on the bar. 14 people were shot, and one killed.

Police Quickly Caught Suspects

So, as you heard in our story, the police's quick response to this mass shooting this weekend led to the rapid distribution of 3 wanted posters for their main suspects: Brian Andrews, Kenyon Moore, and Sherwin Moore, who are all residents of Sittee River.

The cops intercepted them yesterday afternoon in the vicinity of the Silk Grass community, and, tonight, they remain in custody until their arraignment in the Dangriga Magistrate's Court - which is expected tomorrow.

This morning, Police Commissioner Chester Williams outlined the investigation so far:

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"In the wake of what transpired, we mobilized. I put together a senior investigation team headed by ACP Alden Dawson. I was also on the ground. So was Mr. Arzu, who is the Southern Regional Commander. And as much as Mr. Jones, who is the OC in Stann Creek, was injured., he too was still playing an active role in the investigation process. We did a number of things: ensure that we secured witnesses, ensure that we secured evidence, ensure that we secured video footage, and many other things to complement the investigation. What we want to do is to make sure we put together the best possible case so that when the time for trial comes, we can secure our conviction. We also installed within the Stann Creek District, in particular the Hopkins, Sittee River, and Silk Grass area, two separate teams on the SPU that were engaged in searching for the accused men. And so yesterday, we were on the Southern Highway in the vicinity of Silk Grass when police intercepted a vehicle driven by an attorney, and within the vehicle had three accused men. They were taken into custody. Their attorney was questioned, and he indicated that he was about to take the young men into police custody. We do believe his story because he had called about 40 minutes earlier, indicating that he was going to surrender the young men to the police. So, we do not believe that the attorney was in any way trying to hide these accused men. So, following them coming into custody, we sought to commence the interview process. As you would know, under the commissioner's guidelines, we must interview every suspect and take notes of evidence and or notes of the interview. That was being done, and the attorney told the accused men not to cooperate with the police investigation. And so, they chose to remain silent during the entire interview process. Notwithstanding that, we do have sufficient evidence, based on eyewitnesses as well as video footage, to indicate that these three young men are the culprits in respect to the shooting at the Wabinaha Nightclub in Hopkins Village. And so, this morning, what will be done is that the police will be conducting an ID parade, just to be sure. May I say that we do have witnesses who identify them positively, who knows them, but just to make sure we have additional eye witness testimony that can, we'll be able to allow other witnesses to identify them in court when the trial date comes. We're just making sure that we cover that loose end by having other witnesses partake in it to identify them as well. And once that is done, then we proceed to the charges against these young men."

Club Owner Didn't Hire Police Security, Didn't Have A Working Emergency Exit

Police are also getting ready to investigate the owner of the Wabinaha Nightclub in Hopkins. That's because they don't think that the proprietor took the necessary steps to hire security for the protection and safety of their patrons.

As viewers know, the police are usually hired to perform security at mass gatherings. However, multiple reliable reports to our newsroom are that the hired civilian security did not perform any checks for weapons on persons who entered the nightclub. And - all this on a long weekend which was also Hopkins Day - a two day slate of festivities.

The Commissioner said the owner broke key rules for public safety:

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"The proprietor of the establishment is being investigated for failure to provide adequate security. That should tell you that no police officer or officers were working at that establishment. From what we have been briefed, [it] was that they shouldn't have had some civilian as security. The police officers who were in the nightclub had just arrived here because, due to Hopkins Day activities, the OC was moving around the village, making sure that everything was going okay, and he made a stop at the nightclub at the same time the incident occurred. So, he and the other officers were not engaged in any special duty at the event. And certainly, yes, based on what we have seen on the video footage, there was no search being conducted on anyone who was entering the club by the security that the proprietors employed for that night."

The National Commission for Families and Children is also calling for police to investigate the nightclub owner precisely because a 15-year-old minor was found inside the establishment that is meant for adults only.

Their statement says, "The... (NCFC) has noticed with alarm the report that a 15-year-old minor was one of the injured [persons] at a nightclub shooting on Sunday morning in Hopkins Village. It is clear that a 15-year-old should not be in a bar or nightclub, which must be reserved for adults. We call on law enforcement to fully investigate the management of the nightclub and to let the law take its course for this grave infraction." End quote.

Channel 7


Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Hopkins Mass Shooters Arraigned On Two Counts Of Murder

The Hopkins community is still reeling from the events of Sunday morning that left two men dead and eight others injured. And today, the four men the police believe were responsible for the mass shooting were charged and taken before the Dangriga Magistrate's Court.

The men arrived there around 2:30, and about twenty minutes later, they were being carted off to the Belize Central Prison.

Meanwhile, in Belize City, the Commissioner of Police gave an update on where the police's investigation is heading.

Courtney Menzies went south today for the arraignment and has the details.

28-year-old Brian Andrews, 25-year-old Kenyon Moore, 35-year-old Sherwin Moore, and 43-year-old retired Canadian soldier, John Smith, took the perp walk this afternoon to the Dangriga Magistrate's Court where they were each arraigned on two counts of murder.

Andrews, along with Kenyon and Sherwin Moore, are accused of storming into Wabinaha Nightclub in Hopkins Village and letting off a barrage of bullets into the crowd, killing 23-year-old Noah Moro and 56-year-old Emilio Garcia.

And though eight others were also injured during this mass shooting, today, the men were only charged for the two murders. And due to the nature of the crime, no plea was taken and they were remanded to prison.

And while the reports are that it was only three men who stormed into the club, gun blazing, the quick response from the police, who had just arrived on the scene, allowed them to intercept one of the getaway vehicles that was being driven by Smith.

And, according to the Commissioner of Police, Smith was originally charged with abetment to commit murder, but on the advice of the DPP, his charge was upgraded.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"We have also received directive from the DPP representative in the south to proceed with murder charges against the four individuals that will also include the Canadian man."

Reporter
"The initial information that the police aired was that he simply served as a getaway driver."

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"If it is that you and another person embark to go and commit a crime, we have one common purpose. Even if it is that you remain as a lookout person you can be captured as a part of that enterprise, in order to commit the crime. And so we only need to confirm if in fact he went to the location with these young men, and at that particular time, they went to commit the crime while he awaited them to get them out of the area, that will fall within the scope of participation."

And ComPol Williams also noted that the police have had eyes on the other men before this incident.

Pictures on social media indicate that the four men knew each other well and has some history together.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Yes, they have been under the radar of the police, I'm not going to go into details for what, but they had been under police radar."

"The Canadian had not come under police's radar. Ham..he has been monitored by the police before, but not for that extent. We have heard things in the past and, ahm, police have checked out, but, not, per se, deeply under the radar."

And while the police are confined they have the right suspects, there's still a lot left to investigate - including why these four men would do such a heinous act, and how they managed to terrorize and entire community.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Today we were able to recover the other escaped vehicle that belonged to one of the accused men, it was found on a farm within the Stann Creek District."

"From the expended shells recovered based on the video footage we saw, it is clear that they were 9 millimeter pistols."

Jules Vasquez:
"I'm saying that there's a fair degree of premeditation and orchestration. Are you able to speak to that level of uncommon organization for this kind of crime?"

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"I cannot speak to what may have been in their mind, but certainly it was premeditated because they left the club and then they came back shortly thereafter. It is clear that when they left they went to retrieve their weapons. Perhaps it was somewhere nearby - could have been in their vehicles that was right outside parked, and then just went back into the nightclub and did what was done, soh, yeah."

The men are expected to return to court on November 9th for their disclosure.

And the owner of Wabinaha Nightclub, 69-year-old Bernard Franklin Nunez, was also arrested and charged for the offenses of admitting a person under 18 years old and failing to provide a male and female security guard.

Channel 7



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