By Alexis R. Milan
By Marion V. Ali
Belize City police have gone on red alert following the Saturday night murder of Kareem “Robbery” Lopez, a known member of the George Street Gang.
Lopez was shot to death on Saturday night by a man on a bicycle as Lopez walked back to his car after buying food from a snack shop on Central American Boulevard, a few blocks from his home on Jane Usher Boulevard. It was 10:30 at night, and Lopez perhaps thought it was safe enough for him to venture out.
But two men on bicycles were trailing him, and as he walked back to his car they shot him many times in the head and upper body, and left him dead in the street.
City police, anticipating a resurgence of gang violence in the city, have beefed up their patrols of known gangland hot-spots. They have established checkpoints and increased their intelligence activity. They are also conducting random searches of suspicious persons and vehicles.
This work has already yielded results and the police have arrested a man, 27 year old Troy Hyde, and charged him with murder.
The dead man, Kareem Lopez, has a criminal past which has landed him before the courts many times. He was found not guilty of the murder of Mark Gardiner, 26, in 2010.
His last brush with the law came on September 19th of 2014 when police charged him for discharging a gun in public during the J’ouvert march on Marine Parade leading up to Independence Day.
Following his acquittal four years ago, he came under attack at least two times, once in July 2011 when he was shot while sitting in a vehicle on Nurse Finley Crescent. On another occasion he was stabbed in the eye, during a domestic argument.
Lopez tried to live briefly in the US but he was quickly discovered and deported.
Police precautions at gangland hot-spots were not sufficient, however, to prevent the brazen murder of Marvin Underwood, 32, in broad daylight two days later. at a busy thoroughfare near the Pound Yard Bridge on Cemetery Road.
Police have not been able to link the two murders, but the familiar stalking pattern leading to this man’s death was unmistakable, and the bold attack against him in plain view of dozens of witnesses indicated calculated advance planning.
Underwood, reports say, was on his way to work around 7:00 in the morning when a gunman got out of a car, approached him from behind, and shot him in the head with a 9 mm pistol.
The gunman stood over Underwood and fired several more shots.
Several people in a passenger bus saw the gunman and shouted to alert the victim.
The car which brought the gunman, sped off before the gunman’s job was done and he escaped on foot.
Underwood was a law-abiding citizen who worked for several years for CISCO Construction Company. But Underwood, the police point out, has a brother who is a prominent member of a southside gang which is a rival of the George Street Gang.
The police have detained suspects for this murder but their investigation is not yet complete.
Witnesses say the gunman wore a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and used another shirt to cover his face.
Incensed at the bravado of Belize City gangs, the police have resorted to blockades, sealing off Majestic Alley on northside Belize City with more blockades planned for other areas.
Police have also appealed to Belize City residents and are encouraging people to contact the 922 Tips hotline if they have seen anything or if they know anything.
“We can’t be everywhere at all times, so we appreciate the community help”, one police oficer said. .