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Police to prioritize high profile murders due to international implications

The Belize Police Department, along with the blessings of Prime Minister John Briceño, the Cabinet, and other government ministries, will be collaborating with each other to prioritize two of the most recent high-profile murders that occurred over the weekend due to the international impacts that they could have on the country.

The announcement was made at an emergency press briefing held today, January 3rd, 2023, by the Minister with responsibility for the police, the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, and other senior officers of the department following a bloody holiday weekend that saw six persons, including a tourist dead and several others injured.

Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Kareem Musa, speaking at the briefing, indicated that he has already received the assurance of the Prime Minister as well as Cabinet that the police department will be receiving the necessary resources to assist in their fight against crime, especially on the island of San Pedro where tourist J’Bria Michelle Bowens was killed on Friday night during a public shooting outside a nightclub.

Musa indicated that the resources would assist the department in addressing the surge of violence that is being caused by the various warring factions on the island.

Additionally, according to Musa, the Belize Tourism Board will also be stepping in to donate two police booths and two vessels to the department so that they could effectively respond to crimes out on the tourism-dependent destination. In the wake of Bowen's murder, the department also met with tourism stakeholders on the island, who Musa said are also concerned about the international impacts that senseless murder could have on the industry and pledged their support to get the resurgence of crime back under control.

"I have heard the cries of Belizeans that we do not give the same effort when our own Belizeans are killed, but if you look at the US FBI, they do not intervene in every murder as well.

"You have to look at those that can certainly affect the country from a tourism standpoint, and in the case of Belmopan, where a police officer is involved, that can affect the integrity of our department, so we must give additional efforts where we have those types of high profile cases, and that simply means that we needed to do what we did. It is not to say that the lives of our local Belizeans are not worth it. I want people to understand that we value every life lost to us as a significant loss because persons are left orphaned, particularly children and wives are left widowed, and that is not something that we are proud of," said Williams.

In the case of Bowen’s murder, Musa claimed that it was an isolated incident that was caused by a stray bullet that was intended for another target.

He also confirmed that police has detained two residents of San Pedro Town, identified as Delson Paguada, 24, and Lucio Salazar, 33, and charged them with murder. Investigators are also seeking a third suspect, identified as Alfredo Trapp, for questioning.

In another disturbing incident that happened on Saturday night in Belmopan and claimed the life of brothers Jon and David Ramnarace, police confirmed that they have also detained and charged police corporal Elmer Nah with their murders.

Police Commissioner Chester Williams told the media that after viewing several surveillance footages and speaking with witnesses, investigators believed that Nah was the culprit that brazenly walked up to the residence in Belmopan on Saturday night and fatally shot the two brothers before walking inside and shooting their two common-law wives as well.

The commissioner also assured the public, as well as the family of the deceased, that his department will not cover up the incident due to the suspected involvement of one of their own. Instead, he indicated that investigators are doing everything possible to gather all the evidence against Nah as they possibly can.

During his comments, Williams also confirmed that investigators suspect that the double murder of the Ramnarace brothers is connected to the murder of Michael Williams, which had also occurred last week Thursday in the general vicinity.

Williams said, "We believe that they are connected, yes and that the same perpetrator did both of them.’’ While he said that police haven’t yet recovered the firearm that was believed to have been used in these separate murders, nor have they arrived at a possible motive. He dispelled claims that the brothers had been targeted because they were believed to have witnessed the murder of their neighbor a couple of days prior.

In relation to the two murders that have already occurred in Belize City for the new year, Williams also confirmed that those are believed to be related to each other.

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