Tourist Officer Shot Dead in West End

July 1st, 2005
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[private] As West End was getting ready for another busy Saturday night on June 4th, at 9:45 pm on the doorstep of First Baptist Church in West End, Ruben Nuñez, a 21-year-old Tourist Police officer was shot dead. The person who shot the police officer was Gary Fuertado, 52, a nationalized US citizen involved in a legal dispute over a Toyota Corolla he imported to Honduras in 2004.

According to Elia Lily Fuertado, 45, widow of Fuertado, he was coming back from a meeting regarding that matter when he was stopped by two tourist police officers in West End, but disregarded the road block and drove south to his residence. His wife was expecting him there.

“He was shot at twice. I saw one bullet [hole] in the [spare] back wheel of the car,” said Elia Fuertado. “Gary didn’t say a word. He went to his room, got a 12-gauge and a box of bullets.” The police confirmed that they fired two shots at Gary Fuertado’s car, but had no comment about the firing being a part of police procedure.

Fuertado traveled north in his 2005 Toyota RAV4 on the main street in West End towards two tourist police officers stationed by the Baptist Church.

According to the Roatan DGIC, Fuertado then rolled down his window and fired his shotgun, shooting officer Nuñez in the head. The other officer at the scene, officer Prado, 22, fired around a dozen shots at Mr. Fuertado. West End residents and tourists ran for cover.

Seconds later, the vehicle left the scene traveling slowly. Officer Prado called the Preventive police for assistance from his cell phone.

The Preventiva and DGIC police arrived in 20 minutes, but the body of the slain officer remained on the main road until 12:45am. “The police handled the situation badly. For hours people had to pass by the body and it upset many tourists,” said Delcie Rosales, Roatan City council member and a West End resident.

Police followed with an all night land and sea man-hunt. The following morning, June 5, Fuertado’s body and car were found in the ditch on the West Bay road.

The US embassy was contacted, and an autopsy on his body was performed in San Pedro Sula which was then returned to Roatan for burial. According to Elia Lily Fuertado the body had four bullet holes in it: lower abdomen, right torso, lower back and base of the skull. Autopsy results were not made available.

Since coming back to his place of birth in 1998, Fuertado ran a hotel business in West End. According to neighbors, several hotel guests complained of being threatened by Gary Fuertado with a firearm.

A reenactment of the shooting was conducted at the site on June 21st in the presence of a US embassy official. 13 bullet holes were located in the passenger door of the car, another one on the driver side and one more in the rear of the vehicle. Roatan’s public prosecutor is investigating the case.

The murder of the police officer is first such event on Roatan in two decades. Both on Utila and in Oak Ridge a policeman was shot dead in 1980s. Two Roatan policemen died from an accidental shooting in 2004. [/private]

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