The spring semester is coming to an end, and students at the University of Belize are on their last lap of exams. This is usually a time when there is absolute quiet, as students are doing last minute prepping for their tests, but that calm was abruptly interrupted last night after 8:30, when a group of six armed men broke into the dormitory at the Belmopan Campus. The men, described as short Hispanics, wearing dark clothing, gloves and masks, entered from the side entrance which leads to the athletic section of the housing area. They had with them 9mm, .38 pistols and shotguns. And what happened next was a nightmarish fifteen minutes for residents of the athletic hall.
It was like 8 o’clock. I was on my bed doing some work. Three men came over me, covering me, and I started to scream because I calling out for help to the guys that live on the dorm. I was screaming so loud that in the event that they were trying to calm me down, I got hit in my mouth and my feet, because I was making so much noise. They told me to be quiet because everybody’s already out front. They said just be quiet and cooperate with them, and give them what they want. They could shoot me if I don’t stop making noise, or they could rape me right here, so just be quiet. So I’m leaving the room now. They told me how I should take off my shoes, so that I don’t make any noise while we were going out of the room. I’m the last room, so on the way out they stopped by another girl, the Mexican, my Mexican friend’s room, because she was playing music and they ask me “Who’s in there?” And they said knock on the door.
That door led to the room of a foreign exchange student from Mexico, Namayri Lopez. She told us what happened next.
Namayri Lopez – Robbery Victim:
Someone come to knock my door. I didn’t open, and I asked who is they? One friend that live there told me, “It’s me. Open the door.” Then I opened the door. When I opened I saw that the girl was with a guy, with a gun here. The other two guys, one a point me. Then I tried to close the door, but I couldn’t. They pushed the door and I didn’t do anything. I was just quiet, and they start to say, “Everything will be OK. Just be quiet. Sit on the floor.” They sit above us on the floor and say, “Look on the floor.”
The men then took the group of students to the living room; there, they saw the male athletes tied up on the floor.
Namayri Lopez – Robbery Victim:
They start to speak and say “She is pretty. We’ll have to take with us.” And he say, “Please, no. No.” One come with me and he say, “Do you want to come with us? We just stay in a better place. This other place is not for you.” I start to say, “no. No.” And the other guy say, “Yes. Yes.” And he start to cry.
They took me and say, “OK. I want to leave you with the other guys. Then my friend and I stand up. We went to the living room. When I enter I saw all the guys, big guys, strong guys, on the floor tied. And they say that we have to stay, lay on the floor too.
When all the students were in the living room, the men then continued to ransack the rest of the rooms, taking laptops, Ipods, tablets, cell phones, even identification cards, all valuing over forty thousand dollars. It was during this time that the students thought the men had left and so one of the guys proceeded to stand, but that was when a gun was pointed at his head and told that if he got up, he would be shot. Shortly after, the armed men left and the students, fearing to exit through the door the men had broken in, broke through the entrance that leads to another residents’ hall. That hall was unbothered, as it has a separate entrance from the athletic hall. We also spoke to someone who was in the athletic hall. She managed to evade the robbers. Instead, she dashed to her laptop and signaled for help.
Joanna – Robbery Victim:
Once I listened to my friends screaming and crying. I opened the door and they told me everything in seconds, and I closed the door immediately, open my laptop, sending message through Facebook, telling “Please help, (in Spanish of course,) help call the Police, because there are people here that’s stealing [from] us, robbing us. Please call someone to come here.”
Speaking with Namayri Lopez today, she told us she isn’t scheduled to leave for Mexico just yet, but she is moving out of the dorm today, because she fears for her life. And this is the sentiment of the other students we spoke with. So what will the university do about this heightened fear and to ensure that such an incident never happens again? Sewlyn King, Director of the Office of Information, addressed that issue.
Selwin King – Director, Office of Public Information:
We have always maintained and steadfast in our commitment in terms of providing a safe, conducive, and learning environment for all students. That has always been our platform. We maintain that principle. We will now revisit and step up more measures now, in terms of providing extra security. Our security patrol the campuses every day, morning, noon, and night. I guess they too also have a routine, because you know exactly at what time they’ll be patrolling. So it is something now that we may have to mix up in terms of making those patrols. But our security patrols the place every single night, in particular in this area of the Gym and the Dorms. If you recall, when the University was established in 2000, there was just a feeling of open campus. That openness along with the surrounding community may now be revisited, in terms of integrating the communities along with the University, to do something whereby everything is on the table for discussion.
Mr King also informed us that the university is making available, counseling for the students affected. We learned that the campus security set chase after the men, through bushes, but were unable to catch them. So far Police have made no arrests. We note that during the ordeal, there was a football game taking place just a few yards away on campus.