A 14-year-old minor, Laddie Gillett, is dead after a police officer used what the Commissioner of Police described Thursday as “unjustified” force.
Commission of Police Chester Williams, who has gone on record to say that Gillett’s death was due to an ”unjustified use of force”, confirmed that the police officer who fired the fatal shot has been detained and is in police custody where he is being questioned.
According to Williams the Police Department has launched both a criminal and internal investigation into the matter and is seeking the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution to determine the type of charge for the officer. The Commissioner also hinted that the Police Department will be tasked with compensating the family.
“Based on what we have recorded, the shooting would be unjustified,” Williams explained. “We have our use of force policy and one of our policies is that we are not to shoot at a fleeing suspect.”
Williams did go on to explain that in some circumstances it is acceptable to “fire warning shots, but those should be fired in the air, not even on the ground because it could ricochet.”
In Gillett’s case, the top cop said that the young man was not a suspect. “While he was [indeed] running, what we have gathered is that he was not running away from the police, and so he cannot be regarded even as a fleeing suspect.”
According to Williams, around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 14th, 2021, police officers in Placencia received a phone call from a security guard at a resort who reported suspicious persons in the area. Williams said that on the previous night attempts were made to break into the resort and so officers were on high alert and immediately proceeded to the location.
Upon arrival, the cops reported that they encountered two young men running along the beach. One of the officers reportedly pulled out his 9mm pistol and fired a single shot. That shot hit Gillett, who was taken to the Placencia Polyclinic where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Gillett was hit to his back and there was an exit wound through his chest area.
“The fact that there was an attempted break at the establishment in the night before, still does not justify the police to act the way they did on this particular occasion. By all accounts whatever happened the night before was not done by these children, but perhaps by other children and so there is no justifying the police action,” commented Williams.
Prior to that Police briefing, the Reporter spoke to Gillett’s uncle, Emil Bradley, who confirmed that his nephew was simply returning to the family condo prior to the curfew when the officer fatally shot him. The young man was just a stones’ throw away from where the family was staying.
Bradley told the Reporter that on Tuesday, he and his nephew along with several other family members drove down to Placencia for a mini vacation to get away from work. Upon their arrival, Bradley said that Gillett had invited over one of his classmates to vacation with the family, and on Wednesday just before dark the two teenagers headed out to socialize with several other classmates who were also staying at a condo a short distance along the beach.
Bradley also addressed the criticism made on social media that accused the family of being inattentive of their child’s whereabouts after curfew hours. Bradley clarified that his nephew was only a couple of yards away from the condo that the family had rented and that he could see them from where they were hanging out and could even shout over at them if need be. He said that his nephew had every right to enjoy his vacation, with friends and was abiding by the curfew when he was fatally shot because he was jogging home, and would have made it in time if death hadn’t come knocking first.
Following the incident, the United Democratic Party issued a press release calling on the Belize Police Department to ensure a full and objective investigation into the death of the minor and to ensure that police officers refrain from using excessive force while carrying out their duties.
Candlelight vigils are also being planned to honor the life of 14-year-old Laddie Gillett, whose life was snuffed out by a bullet fired by an officer of the law.
It is worth noting that the current COVID regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 74 or 2021) does, however, say that “every minor shall be and remain within the confines of a private property during the hours of 6:00 pm. until 5:00 a.m. of the following morning, provided that a minor may move in any public road during the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and during the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday if that minor is accompanied by his parent or guardian.”