Residents countrywide were glued to their radios and television on Tuesday afternoon, January 8, 2013, as Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow addressed the nation concerning the safety of Belize City after an early morning homicide involving gang members caused the shutdown of business and school activity for the day.
The Ministry of National Security confirmed reports of an apparent multiple homicide that occurred in Belize City sometime Monday night. Police responded to a call around 8:00am and visited an apartment complex at the corner of Dean and Plues Streets where they found the lifeless bodies of four men, namely, Albert Fuentes 19, Leonard Meyers 30, Anthony Perez, 28, and Keino Quallo, 40. The bodies had multiple stab wounds, and there were no signs of forced entry.
Authorities informed that the apartment complex was a central hub of the notorious George Street gang of Belize City and immediately dispatched personnel to assure the security of residents in the south side of the city. As an immediate reaction and fear of retaliation by gang members, city residents panicked and started to close down businesses and schools resorted into allowing parents, who felt it unsafe, to pick up their children. Most business and schools closed down for the remainder of the day.
Prime Minister Barrow expressed that he understood the panic of the city residents, but also explained that the situation was over exaggerated due to false rumors being spread in the social media platform and including some media outlets. He reiterated that the city was never under an extreme state of chaos and gang war activity. Rumors of gang retaliation and further murders only fueled more chaos and panic within the city. Authorities confirmed that the only shots fired were warning shots fired by the authorities who were reacting to a situation caused by some citizens at the time of the discovery and recovery of the bodies.
PM Dean Barrow stated that he met with leaders of the George Street Gang to assure that no retaliation amongst gang members would put citizens under any danger. He assured the public that the gang leaders gave him their word that no retaliation would take place. In fact the Prime Minister informed that gang leaders have, in an act of good faith, left Belize City to an undisclosed place. PM Barrow and the Ministry of Defense have placed protocol in place to assure the safety of the citizens of Belize City in days and weeks to come.
It was made clear that the George Street gang members are convinced that the murders were carried out by the Gang Suppression Unit of Belize, something that has been denied by the GSU. Hence, the police have launched an investigation led by three senior members of the Police Department. The Police Department and Ministry of National Security assure the Belizean Public that law enforcement authorities are on the ground and are taking measures to ensure public safety in this area and throughout Belize City.