By Ingrid Fernandez/ Staff Journalist
Popular San Pedro bartender, Edwin Ixpatac, 30, was brutally beaten while in police custody last Thursday and died three days later of his injuries. The three arresting officers now face murder charges for his death.
Ixpatac was detained on Thursday night after San Pedro police found him intoxicated on the beach near the sea wall. He had sustained abrasions from falling on the concrete.
When the police tried to take him in, he became abusive and put up a fight.
The next day, Ixpatac was unresponsive so he was taken to the Dr. Otto Rodrigues Polyclinic on the island where caregivers noticed that his injuries were severe. He was was immediately transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City. He died three days later, and police pathologist, Dr. Mario Estravadan, confirmed that blunt trauma to the head and abdomen were the cause of death.
In response to allegations of police brutality, the department deployed a team of eight officers to the island last Friday to investigate. Soon after that, three policemen along with their supervising officer were suspended on disciplinary charges.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Bernard Lino, this week said video footage that police obtained show that there was a confrontation between Ixtapac and the three officers. The footage was damning enough for the three officers: Roydel Teck, Josimir Cob and Romelio Logan, to be charged for Ixpatac’s death.
Supervising officer, Sergeant Raymond Berry, did not escape notice. He is on interdiction, facing disciplinary charges.
Eastern Division North Commander, Desiree Phillips said the police department is communicating with the family.
“We know there are a lot of persons hurting because of this incident. But I just want to assure the families and public that a swift, just and transparent investigation is being conducted. Swift action was taken the minute it was brought to our attention on Friday,” she said.
Last year, a similar incident in Caye Caulker sparked public outrage. The Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) was sent to restore order. Aware that this new incident could incite public protests, Phillips said the police are working to calm the situation.
The three officers were arraigned on Tuesday in the Supreme Court. Outside the court room, Ixpatac’s devastated family looked on.
Olaga Ixtapac, Edwin’s sister, recalled that the family received a telephone call to say that her brother had been in an accident, but no one from the police station in San Pedro told her that he had been gravely injured. When the family arrived at the hospital in Belize City they received the news that Edwin was in a coma. The next day, they found out that Edwin had died.
Although Phillips said the department is communicating with the family, Olga said they have not been informed of a motive. “They don’t want to explain to us, they just told us what the police did and that’s all. Nobody wants to explain to us anything.”
“He was a friendly person, even if he doesn’t know you, he will make you feel like he is part of his family, that’s Edwin,” she said. Ixpatac was the father of two young children, a 10 and a six-year-old. He had no previous encounters with the police.
According to Olga, the family is seriously considering filing a civil suit against the police department.