Corporal Gavin Sanchez fatally shot by fellow officer

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 20, No. 12            March 25, 2010

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Corporal Gavin Sanchez, deceased

Sergeant Paulino Reyes

The body of Gavin Sanchez was removed around 2pm, where it was transferred to the city for a full post mortem.

    Sometime after 3:00 a.m. March 18th, gun shots broke the still of night. Neighbors claim to have heard up to eight shots and as dawn broke in San Pedro Town, reports poured and at the end of it all, it was a fact that police corporal Gavin Sanchez, detached to the San Pedro Police Department, had lost his life after being fatally wounded by one of his own. By day break, the body of Corporal Sanchez remained in the hallway of the Police Barracks behind the San Pedro Police Department.

    Sergeant Paulino Reyes was the officer involved in the shooting and in a statement issued to the department he explained that the shooting was as a result of self defense. By midday, the island was inundated by media and high ranking officials looking for answers.

    At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Thursday the body of the slain corporal was transported to the Karl Heusner’s Memorial Hospital’s morgue where it lay in wait of a post mortem examination. Back in San Pedro Town, an official press conference was held at the San Pedro Magistrates Court where Assistant Commissioner of Police Miguel Segura explained the results of their initial investigations, “From the initial investigation conducted, it reveals that at about 11:45 pm on Wednesday the 17th of March, Sgt. Paulino Reyes was working special duty in uniform at Wet Willy’s Night Club situated on the beachfront, where his attention was drawn to two BDF and a police officer having an altercation with a person identified as Corporal Gavin Sanchez. At about 12 midnight Sgt. Reyes escorted Gavin Sanchez outside of that premises, with the assistance of the BDF and PC Jeffrey Martinez of the San Pedro Police Department. He was later escorted to the San Pedro Police Station. Whilst at the station Cpl. Sanchez was behaving disorderly and even uttered words, threatening that he would kill that boy and in the presence of other officers at the station.

    “Subsequent entries were made by the officers in the diary. At about 2:30am after the conclusion of the event at Wet Willy’s, Sgt. Reyes arrived at the police station and he made entries in the station diary in regard to the previous incident at Wet Willy’s, that he had with Cpl. Sanchez including the information he received that Sanchez would be waiting for him behind the station. Sgt. Reyes along with two BDF then went to the barrack room where shortly thereafter those shots were heard being fired.”

    A police report issued by the San Pedro Police Department states, “At the conclusion of the function Sgt. Reyes, accompanied by two BDF, went to the barrack room where he then was attacked by Cpl. Sanchez lashing him on the head with a piece of metal pipe, causing him a large cut wound. Cpl. Sanchez pulling out what appeared to be hand gun from his pants waist, Sgt Reyes pulled out his issued 9mm and fired several shots at Cpl. Sanchez hitting him on the head, and collapsing on the corridor area of the barrack room.”

    Also present during Thursday’s press conference was Assistant Commissioner of Police James Magdaleno who spoke of the items found during their investigation. “We have since recovered nine expended 9 mm shells, six slugs found on the hallway, on the wall of the hall, one 9 mm Ruger brand pistol with serial number 3072466 and magazine with two live 9 mm rounds, one .45 Springfield brand pistol with five .45 live rounds and one magazine bearing serial number N307216, one piece of aluminum measuring two feet by eleven and a half inches and two and a half inches in width, one white bullet proof vest found on the body of the deceased with one slug, blood stains on tennis shoes of the victim.”

    Witnesses who patronized Wet Willy’s on the night in question state that Corporal Sanchez intercepted another fight allegedly involving another police officer. It is alleged that Corporal Sanchez did become unruly and Sergeant Reyes was called in to contain the situation. Corporal Sanchez was transported to the San Pedro Police Department where Corporal Sanchez was to have been detained. Why he was not properly detained and why he was not placed in a holding cell are questions being investigated by Internal Affairs in the Police Department. According to Assistant Commissioner Segura, the Police Department is conducting two investigations: an internal investigation and a criminal investigation to determine whether the force used was necessary.

    Director of the San Pedro Polyclinic Dr. Javier Zuniga pronounced Corporal Sanchez dead at 3:30 a.m. with the fatal bullet wound being inflicted to Sanchez’s forehead. A post mortem examination conducted by Mario Estradaban revealed that Cpl. Sanchez’s body presented a total of nine (9) entry wounds and seven (7) exiting wounds. According to Dr. Estradaban, Cpl. Sanchez’s body presented more than one wound to the head. Other wounds were to the arm, neck and foot.

    Police investigations continue into the tragic incident and Sergeant Reyes has been placed on “administrative leave.” Sergeant Reyes is not on active duty but has not been placed on interdiction or half pay. The file of the investigation has already been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for determination on as to whether or not charges will be filed against the sergeant. Corporal Gavin Andre Deon Sanchez was laid to rest on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010. The ceremony was held at the Open Door Ministry Church on Muhammad Ali Street in the Port Loyola area. Magistrate Emerson Banner gave the official remembrance while Corporal Sanchez’s close friend Sergeant Nicolas Palomo gave a personal remembrance.
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