We’ve just returned to Placencia from a 2-week family and friends’ visit in the States and while we were gone this community suffered a tragic and contentious event; one that has made national headlines and sparked an explosion of emotion from the public (both home and abroad via social media). On the night of July 15th, seemingly inconsequential events led to the fatal shooting of a minor on our otherwise quiet beach. Chief of Police, Chester Williams, has already admitted in an interview with the press that the shooting was unauthorized and unwarranted.
The victim was a 14 year old boy from Chaa Creek in the Cayo District, in Placencia for vacation. He and his friend had been on the beach eating cake and were heading in just after curfew when a security guard from a nearby property called police to report them. They attempted to flee- up the beach back toward their resort- when Corporal Kareem Martinez made the grievous mistake of firing his weapon upon them. Laddie Gillett was hit in the back and died before he reached the local clinic. I’m sure Officer Martinez didn’t intent take a life that night; especially the life of such a young and by all accounts wholesome boy, but action and results were what they were. We are all guilty of mistakes, that is human nature and it’s been playing out our imperfections since the beginning of time, but some mistakes carry tremendous and heinous consequences.
Tonight I attended a vigil for Laddie, a peaceful protest held outside the Placencia Police Department. Attendees were clearly outraged and gutted by the events of that night. The community is calling for accountability from Law Enforcement locally and nationwide: non-violent conflict resolution training, racial profiling reform, increased vetting for new hires and psychological evaluations among other things. The community wants to be assured that a tragedy like this isn’t repeated. This tragedy has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind, as I’m sure it has for most mothers that have learned of it, and it was in my subconscious last night when I read an astonishingly pertinent line in a Stephen White novel: Guns are a big responsibility. Knowing how to shoot one is different from knowing when to shoot one. How true. They certainly are not mutually exclusive skills and both should be honed by the people with the privilege and power to carry firearms.
I hope we (the collective we– law enforcement, civilians, mothers and fathers and children) take this tragic event and use it as a catalyst for change; that we all work on being better. Better at the difficult job of policing, better at being good neighbors, better at being smart and kind when engaging in conflict resolution.
Nothing can undo what was done that night but I hope there is #justiceforLaddie and I also hope (as was repeated numerous times tonight at the vigil) that this never happens again.