[private] Tensions between the National Police and residents of French Harbour came to a boil in August after an island man was shot and killed August 5, allegedly by a Border Police officer. Witnesses said the deceased, Timothy Rankin, 51, had merely asked why police were beating his son, Jerson Rankin, 17.
According to national and local media and Voice sources, angry residents of the La Loma neighborhood, where the incident took place, protested outside the police station in French Harbour August 8 demanding confirmation that the officer implicated in the shooting had been detained and was still on the island. The protests prompted the Border Police stationed there to withdraw to Coxen Hole.
Raúl Martinez, commissioner of National Police for the Bay Islands, told reporters that the officer “who committed this error” had been detained and that “the courts will determine responsibility.” Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo appealed for calm and urged police to display the suspect.
Roatan Penal Court documents confirmed Prosecutor Bibion Morales charged Horlin Alexander Rosado of the Border Police August 6 with “simple homicide” for the Rankin shooting. He was placed in preventive detention and transferred to Marco Aurelio Soto Prison, outside Tegucigalpa, August 10.
About 60 islanders protested in front of the prosecutor’s office, the courthouse and City Hall in Coxen Hole August 24 to appeal for justice and an end to racism and abuse.
Witnesses told the Voice Jerson Rankin was sitting with two friends on the steps of the cemetery in front of his father’s house around 9 p.m. August 5 when three men in plain clothes, known by residents to be police officers, approached them on foot. Floyd Rankin, Timothy’s brother, who was in front of a pulpería up the street at the time, said the officers told Jerson’s two friends to leave but said to Jerson, “Don’t move.” He said the officers then handcuffed Jerson, placed him face-down at the edge of the street and proceeded to kick him in the face and ribs.
Sherine Guzmán Gómez and her mother, Sandra Gómez, said they were at their chewing gum stand about 25 meters away at the time and “heard someone hollering.” Guzmán said they went into the street to see what was happening and saw the three men “had him (Jerson) on the ground and they were licking him and kicking him” for “a goodly while.”
At that point, they said, Victor Alvarez, Timothy Rankin’s cousin, who had been visiting friends in the alley below the cemetery, came to Jerson’s aid and pulled one of the men off of him. Witnesses said the man then displayed his weapon and said “Le voy a pegar un tiro” (I’ll shoot you), and Alvarez backed off. They said the men did not identify themselves as police or tell Jerson why he was being arrested.
Floyd Rankin said one of the friends who had been sitting with Jerson went to summon Timothy Rankin, who was asleep inside his house. Timothy came out to where his son lay handcuffed and asked, “Why are you beating my son?” Witnesses said he was unarmed, did not touch any of the men, make any threatening gestures or even use profane language.
Floyd Rankin said the men then lifted Jerson to his feet and proceeded to walk him up the street toward the nearby police station. He said that he, Alvarez and Timothy Rankin followed close behind and that Timothy Rankin implored his son to not be foolish and “just walk with them.”
“I was on the left (of Timothy), Victor was on the right, Babylon (the police) was in the middle,” he said.
Then, he said, one of the men turned to Timothy Rankin and said, “Quien es Ud.?” (who are you?). He said his brother replied “Soy el padre de él” (I’m his father). He said the man then pushed Timothy Rankin away, pulled out his handgun and shot him behind the right ear.
Court documents indicate Rosado claims Timothy Rankin was armed, the two of them fought for the weapon and it went off accidentally during the struggle.
Press reports say Timothy Rankin was taken to Roatan Hospital, then transferred to a hospital on the mainland in the morning, where he died shortly thereafter.
Jerson Rankin was detained in Coxen Hole and released five days later.
Repeated attempts to elicit comments from the Police for this article were unsuccessful.
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