Caye Caulker, famously dubbed as “La Isla Cariñosa,” which is Spanish for “the loving Island,” was in a state of unrest following the death of 18 year old Hilberto Sotz, who died while in police custody at the Caye Caulker police Station on Monday June 8th. Sotz was detained that same evening in relation to a string of robberies that were occurring on the island. However, some residents say he couldn’t have played a part in those robberies since he had just arrived on the island before he was detained. While in detention, Sotz died, but how? Today, police sent out a press release with their side of the story. According to authorities sometime around 5 pm, while being interviewed, Sotz reportedly started complaining of chest pain and had difficulty breathing. As a result, 18 year old Sotz was rushed to the poly clinic for medical treatment where he passed away. But residents, enraged by the passing of a teenager under police detention, are not buying that story.
“First thing I want to say is that those police are chancey and it is them who killed the little boy. I don’t know why they don’t come out here like how they were out here last night pappy showing themselves. It is not right. They killed the little boy and they should own up to what they did.”
“Mam, do you believe, like everyone else, that Mr. Sotz was killed in Police custody?”
“Yes he was. I heard that they even put a plastic bag over his head. And I heard he is an asthmatic little kid so he probably got frightened by the time he saw the bag. It’s like a little fish without water.
“What sort of justice, as a resident of the island, do you want to come out of this?”
“Well, justice. Let them lack him up, charge him as normal, send him to jail and throw away the key. That is not good what he is doing. He is a bad example for the police station and for us.”
But the tipping point, according to residents, was the way the authorities handled the situation right after the teenager was pronounced dead.
“The whole reason the riot started was because the police came downstairs and pointed in the father of the dead child face. He came down and point in his face and told him to stop talk stupidness. The man was talking for his rights. After that he came downstairs, drove in the golf cart and knock a guy off his bike. That is why everybody start to fight with him and he ride gone and bring an entire force and they came pushing and slapping people. That is not right.”
The situation quickly escalated to the point that projectiles were being launched from angry protestors. It got to the point where warning shots were fired by police as they attempted to disperse the gathering outside of the poly clinic. The dragon unit and the Gang Suppression Unit, were dispatched to the island to quell the unrest. By 11 pm last night the delicate situation had somewhat regularized without any casualties. Mirna Marin, a tacos vendor of Caye Caulker says she is happy to see the islanders finally standing up for their rights.
“Was it a shock for you to see how the villagers reacted to this incident last night?”
“No. I am so happy that finally the village stand up for someone because we are tired of these police people chancing the community. So I am so happy that we came out because I came out and saw too. I said, at least Caye Caulker woke up now because this is the fourth man they killed in Caye Caulker. You know what I would like or these people to do is to break down that police station and build a new one because I believe that is a curse. It is the fourth man that they killed in there. If San Pedro could break down a police station, Caye Caulker could also do it and get a new police station.”
Sources tell Plus news that some 25 individuals were detained in the heat of last night’s confrontation. Those persons remain in police custody pending charges for illegal gathering. The commissioner of police expressed his condolences to the family of the deceased in a press release issued earlier today. Senior investigators from Belize City as well as senior officers from the professional Standards Branch have since been dispatched to the island to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances leading to the detention and passing of 18 year old Hilberto Sotz. Sotz body now lies at the Karl Heusner Memorial hospital Morgue. Of note is that two police officers are in custody pending further investigations.