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Memorial service for Mario Graniel and Dr. Paul Swank

Posted By: Marty

Memorial service for Mario Graniel and Dr. Paul Swank - 06/23/20 04:54 PM

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Memorial service was held today for San Pedrano Mario Graniel and American National Dr. Paul Swank who were murdered a year ago, to this date, on a fly fishing trip on Ambergris Caye. The San Pedro Police Department organized a short ceremony conducted by Father Scott on the site of the murder.

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More in the San Pedro Sun

Posted By: Marty

Re: Memorial service for Mario Graniel and Dr. Paul Swank - 06/24/20 10:18 AM

San Pedro - one Year Later, from Death Island to Peace Town

Our next story may strike you as a softer story you would normally see at the end of the news. It's a story about a murder in San Pedro - but one that happened a year ago. And, it's also a story about how NO murders have happened on San Pedro since then. It is significant and encouraging milestone, and perhaps an example of how a properly police community can manage itself. Jules Vasquez took a deeper look:

From 2016 to 2018, San Pedro seemed to be in the news weekly with some outrageous act of violence, from drug murders to killings of expatriate businesspersons, to truly wild acts of police brutality. And then it culminated in this murder of tour guide Mario Graniel and his guest on June 23, 2019. It was a killing linked to the underworld - but it became world news - on CNN - when the vacationing American Doctor, Gary Swank was killed while on a fishing tour, as his family waited for him at the hotel. It became an international incident, the ultimate black eye for Belize.

Trip cancellations were coming fast and furious and, days later, the community let their displeasure be known as they fatigued the commissioner of police:

FILE: Thu, June 27, 2019
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

"I must say that it had indeed been a difficult time for me. I am doing my utmost best with the support of my staff to ensure that we find those persons who are responsible for the death of Dr. Swank and Mr. Graniel. I can assure you that I am not going to rest until they are caught."

Today, exactly one year later, the killers have not been caught, but there is some healing; police accompanied Graniel's daughter to the exact location where he was killed to lay a wreath in the water. The murder has never been solved, but the act gave her some closure:

Debbie Graniel, Daughter of deceased
"It was nice to have the memorial. I didn't get to go to the place where he died last year, so it was nice to go there and visit. It was very difficult to cope with it because it's a little scary what we believe what happened, the persons that we believe are behind the murder are still out free."

She was accompanied on that trip by the officer commanding San Pedro, Chris Noble. He was brought in to take over island security and build community confidence last year when police and the state had to step up with a credible response for Belize's top tourism destination. And it has paid off in spades. San Pedro has gone one year since that murder without a killing, and major crimes have been down for 12 consecutive months. It's a remarkable turnaround, and in January, Noble told us it's a community success:

Supt. Chris Noble, OC, San Pedro
"Our strategy has been very basic, it's back to basic policing: the patrols, the meet and greets, the accessibility to some extent and the community has responded in kind and it has been overwhelming."

Jules Vasquez
"How much of a tool is the use of force in cracking down on the gangs, because that's what a lot of people wants, you just go in there and burst men heads."

Supt. Chris Noble, OC, San Pedro
"We don't need the brute force, you need education, you need to work with people and even if it is kicking in a door you kick in the door, but you are cordial, courteous, you're human to a human."

Jules Vasquez
"You all have to deal with there are ruthless and lawless drug gangs out there."

Supt. Chris Noble, OC, San Pedro
"When it comes to having ruthless people, it is human. There is no bad human, there is a human with bad intensions."

It may sound like cockeyed optimism, but it's been working - and today, San Pedro is a place of peace after a remarkable year of calm. What everyone hopes now is that peace can continue to prevail when the island starts welcoming tourists again later this year.

For 2018, and up to the first half of 2019, there were a total of 21 murders on San Pedro. Since then, there have been none.

Channel 7

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