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Belize to drop murder charge against former Canadian soldier arrested after night club shooting


Retired master corporal John Roy Smith was released from jail after a Belize court determined there was insufficient evidence for him to face trial.

A former Petawawa soldier, charged with murder after a mass shooting in Belize killed two and injured eight, has been released from jail because of a lack of evidence.

Prosecutors have indicated they will drop the charge against retired master corporal John Roy Smith.

The 43-year-old had been arrested after the shooting at a night club on July 31 in Hopkins Village, a coastal community in southern Belize. He was originally charged by police with abetment to commit murder but on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Belize, the charge was changed to murder.

Three other men, all from Belize, were also charged with murder.

But on Tuesday, Smith was released after a Belize court determined there was insufficient evidence for him to face trial.

After being released, Smith told journalists in Belize he had no involvement in the shooting.

“It feels great because I have maintained my innocence since the first day,” Smith said in an interview with 7 News, a television station in Belize. “I should never have been put in prison to begin with and I’m sorry that people got hurt that night. I had nothing to do with it and I’m a free man now and I’m gonna go live free.”

Police alleged Smith drove a getaway car for the gunmen. The shootings claimed the lives of two men, one from Belize and the other from Honduras. Eight others were injured, including three police officers who were in the nightclub on a routine patrol.

Police claimed at the time of his arrest that Smith was a close associate of the other men who had been charged. Belize’s commissioner of police, Chester Williams, said the incident appeared to have started after the three men approached the girlfriend of one of the victims, 23-year-old Noah Moro. An argument ensued and the three men left the nightclub, only to return shortly after armed with handguns. Moro was killed and then the men opened fire indiscriminately into the crowd, police said.

Another man, 56-year-old Honduran national, Emilio Garcia, who had reportedly tried to close the doors of the club to block the gunfire, was also shot and killed.

Тhе alleged gunmen thеn gоt іntо twо ѕерarate vеhісlеѕ, including one belonging to Smith, according to Belize police.

But Smith’s lawyer Dickie Bradley suggested to 7 News Belize that Smith was trying to help those fleeing the mass shooting.

“Remember this happened at night, everything happened so quickly,” said Bradley. “He had been trying to assist and tell people ‘jump into my vehicle.’ He drove to the police station in Hopkins (but) there was nobody there.”

Bradley said the prosecutors reviewed the file against his client and “they are satisfied that the evidence gathered by the police investigators is not sufficient to hold up in a court of law.”

He said prosecutors have indicated the charge against Smith will be withdrawn.

The mass shooting rocked the Caribbean nation. John Briceno, the Prime Minister of Belize, said at a news conference that such incidents are rare in his country.

Three other men are still facing murder charges.

Smith is a former member of 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment, based at Garrison Petawawa. He served from September 2001 to September 2011 before being medically released from the Canadian Army as a result of injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Smith had fought in Operation Medusa, a 2006 offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar, during which 12 Canadian soldiers were killed.

After leaving the Canadian Army, Smith operated a business called Frontline Cabinetry and Furniture. The Barrie-area company made custom furniture, kitchens and bars. “My vision is to build my company into a household name,” he noted on his LinkedIn account. “With this, I plan on hiring other CF members transitioning to civilian life.”

But Smith closed down his business, citing pandemic-related restrictions as the reason. In an online video, he blamed the Canadian government for choosing “big business over small business” because it allowed major stores to remain open during the pandemic but required small companies to shut down. Smith also complained of his treatment by the federal government, adding that Веlіzе “оwеѕ mе nоthіng, unlіkе Саnаdа.”

The video was removed from the internet shortly after Belize news outlets posted links to the footage.

Source: National Post