Belize City, April 24, 2012
A blood covered roadside, strange sequence of events, weak and inadequate explanations from the Police Commissioner and Minister of National Security and witness accounts revealing that excessive force was used by security authorities are all stirring up major controversy and suspicion over the killing of known Taylor’s Alley gang leader/CYDP employee, Arthur Young.
The controversy is over the suspicion that Police officials may have carried out a Government-sanctioned killing, to quell the gang rivalry in Belize City which had peaked to a deadly climax over the weekend, claiming four lives in 2 days, including that of rival gang leader Shelton “Pinky” Tillett August.
“Pinky” was shot dead on Friday night just outside of a gas station, and somehow, the Police confirmed Arthur Young as the shooter. Reports that the gas stations’ video surveillance captured the incident have not been verified, even though it could be utilised by the Police to validate their claim and allay concerns.
Up to today, Young’s alleged dead body, which lies under heavy security at the Belize City morgue, has not been released or revealed to his family or loved ones. Are the Police and Government covering up something?
What is also not clear is what exactly occurred on Sunday night, when the Police say they carried out an operation to detain Young who they learned was “hiding” in a house in Vista Del Mar, Ladyville. The detention turned into an execution, as Young was shot dead. The Police’s version is that while transporting Young on the back of a Police pickup truck, he attempted to take away a Police Officer’s weapon. He supposedly did this while he was handcuffed and even though he was guarded by multiple armed officers. Police say that during the struggle, the gun went off and Young was shot fatally.
This kind of story released by the Police has been heard of many times before.
Witness accounts of the Police’s raid at the Vista Del Mar house Young was in tell a more brutal version. They say the Police swarmed the building. Moments later they saw Young being dragged out and beaten up as he was placed inside the back of a pickup truck. The Police caravan then disappeared and shortly after, word went out that Young was dead.
Driving out of Vista Del Mar, the BELIZE TIMES stumbled on a large area of dried blood covering the road. If Young was shot in the back of a pickup truck, why is there such a large splash of blood on the road side? And why is the splash so large, as if Young was shot while placed on the road, from close range and in an area of his body, likely on the head, which would have caused the blood to splash?
[caption id="attachment_12863" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Blood stain on road side, upon exiting Vista del Mar"]
There are clearly more questions than answers in this case and the Police are tight-lipped, only saying that an investigation is on-going.
While that investigation continues, suspicion grows and the streets in the old capital remain as tense as ever.
But would the Police have any reason to carry out such an extra-judicial execution?
Young, who was already notorious and in the Police’s bad books, had made himself even less liked when he gave news interviews a month ago lashing out at the Police’s Gang Suppression Unit for allegedly brutalising his fellow Taylor’s Alley friends. Young even made threats at the Police claiming, “….they are trying to turn us into monsters, [so] they have to watch out, because if we turn into monsters, then there would be a lot of bloodshed, and we don’t want to do that”.
Young was at the time an employee of the Government’s Conscious Youth Development Programme, and his responsibility was to keep his affiliates in Taylor’s Alley in line. Young was also well liked by senior officials in the ruling party. He was, for some time, the former UDP Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel’s son in law, and that relationship with the ex PM’s daughter gave birth to grandchildren.
[caption id="attachment_12864" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Vista del Mar house where Young was found"]
Young also had a cordial relationship with the current Minister of Gangs Mark King, and he boasted of “visits” by Minister King to Taylor’s Alley.
That level of closeness to senior officials didn’t matter following Friday night’s shooting of Pinky Tillett. If Young was a friend of the UDP, Pinky was family.
George Street spans through two UDP strong-hold political constituencies, Mesopotamia and Queen Square. The latter is held by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
Over the years, “Pinky” developed close ties with area representative Barrow. Prior to the March 7th 2012 elections, “Pinky” was seen driving around “Sista B”, PM Barrow’s sister and closest political confidante. “Pinky” was also in charge or oversaw the pantry programme in Queen Square for PM Barrow. Every week he would collect a large quantity of food pantry and distribute them to specific families, as part of the Government’s programme.
He was also instrumental in the Government’s “gang truce”, which saw the George Street group playing a dominant role in the agreement that gang members would be hired and paid and in return, the streets would see peace.
“Pinky’s” murder on Friday night brought that already fragile gang truce to an immediate collapse, and the Government and Police had to act fast.
Whether targeting Young was justified or a kind of appeasement to calm the rising fury and fire in the old capital will be known in time.