Growing up in Belize is the stuff of dreams. To be surrounded by so much natural beauty, spending days canoeing, riding horses, kicking a ball around the yard with your cousins, this is a childhood most people could only fantasize about.
With beautiful, sandy Caribbean beaches only hours away, you and your friends can spend days swimming, kayaking, fishing, and doing all those things kids do when youthful adventure beckons, and the world is your oyster. You’re a happy, carefree, good kid living the dream. Until suddenly, tragically, and senselessly – without provocation or need, the dream – and a life and future full of promise – are cut short by a bullet to the back.
A fourteen-year-old and friends enjoying a pretty, sweet cake on a moonlit beach, laughing and playing as kids do. Suddenly, remembering that there is curfew in place and the clock is ticking, they do the right thing. They walk the girls back to their homes, make sure they are safely inside, and race back to the resort their family treated them to stay in.
Two Belizean youths jogging home to beat curfew catch the eye of a security guard, and he contacts other men, those hired to “Serve and Protect” the community.
A shot rings out, and Laddie Gillet’s life ebbs away from him on the beach he was enjoying just minutes ago. As he lays dying, his teenage friend, brought down by a baton, is beaten by these same “guardians” of the community, all along begging to know how his friend is.
Apparently, Laddie and his friends’ only crime was taking advantage of the birth right bestowed upon every Belizean, regardless of their ethnicity – the right to enjoy the natural riches this little country has been blessed with.
As a developing nation, Belize is filled with natural riches beyond compare. So much so that people from “developed” countries around the world come to marvel at the cultural and natural treasures so many of us take for granted. This is the patrimony all Belizeans are entitled to.
Why then, would a native-born son of the soil, enjoying the innocent pleasures of sweet treats with his friends on the beach be regarded as “suspicious”? And by whom? For what reason? And why, did the man - the Policeman - paid to protect and serve the community, go home to spend the next nights with his family, while Laddie’s body lay cold in the morgue with his family continuing to miss him and mourn?
While nothing can bring Laddie back, or soothe the pain his family, extended family and friends endure, we respectfully suggest the following:
Don’t let Laddie’s death be in vain
Let’s put in place common sense policies and procedures to prevent this from ever happening again. Maybe call it Laddie’s Law • Create a private citizen’s review board to examine and report on any instance of a minor being hurt or killed by police officers. • Any police officer who, in carrying out his or her duties, causes injuries or death to a member of the public, and especially a minor, immediately be tested for the presence of drugs or alcohol. • Sworn testimony by attending police officers, medical personnel and ambulance drivers be immediately and formally recorded. • Police officers who discharge their service weapons – for any reason - must fill out and sign a form outlining when, where, under what conditions, and for what reason they fired their weapon. We want to express our sincere belief that the majority of Belize’s police and BDF officers are dedicated public servants doing a difficult, often unacknowledged job. We’ve seen these men and women helping members of the community with kindness, compassion and understanding, just as we’ve appreciated having them protect the property and lives of Belizeans. That’s why it’s of utmost importance that those few who betray their uniforms, public trust, and fellow officers - be identified, judged, and, if found guilty, be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. These are not private citizens, but people we have entrusted to carry and use weapons. People we have given the power of life and death over us, our friends and families. As such, they should be held to greater standards of accountability. At the very least, they should be made to abide to the same laws as the rest of us. A badge and uniform must never be seen as a “get out of jail free” card.
Laddie’s Law is intended to support those men and women who honestly do “Protect and Serve” the community, while identifying, and weeding out those who present a threat to community members – and especially our youth.
Because Belizeans have the right to ask; whose country is this, really?
Laddie truly epitomized the slogan; It takes a village to raise a child. He was raised in the Bradley family compound in Camalote by his foster mom, the adoring Gran, along with his aunties, uncles and adoptive cousins. When Gran died at Chaa Creek three Christmases ago, everyone stepped up and Laddie was embraced by all.
Emil and Bryony Bradley and Ms. Sharon became joint custodians and Laddie continued spending his time between Camalote and Chaa Creek where he enjoyed his first birthday Pinata at the age of three. His last three years were spent fully at Chaa Creek where he focused on sports training, schoolwork, and especially relished his job as an adoring big brother to baby Ian.
And now, the village has expanded to an entire nation as our country mourns the death of our little Laddie.
We ask all Belizeans to honor Laddie’s short life by getting behind and supporting efforts now underway to create greater transparency and accountability in instances where police officers deal with minors, and especially when deadly force is used.
Imagine if young Laddie was your son, brother, relative or friend.
And then ask yourself – does this seem too much to ask? The life you save may well be that of someone you love. Think about it. And then act. Respectfully, The Bradley and Fleming Families ... See MoreSee Less