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Former Petawawa soldier charged with murder after mass shooting in Belize

Former Petawawa soldier charged with murder after mass shooting in Belize thumbnail

Retired master corporal John Roy Smith was arrested in a mass shooting that killed two and injured eight, including police officers

From the left, Kenyon Moore, 25, Brian Andrews, 28, John Roy Smith, 43, a retired master corporal in the Canadian forces, once stationed at Petawawa, and Sherwin Moore, 35, have all been charged with murder in relation to a mass shooting on July 31 at a night club in Hopkins Village, a coastal community in southern Belize.
From the left, Kenyon Moore, 25, Brian Andrews, 28, John Roy Smith, 43, a retired master corporal in the Canadian forces, once stationed at Petawawa, and Sherwin Moore, 35, have all been charged with murder in relation to a mass shooting on July 31 at a night club in Hopkins Village, a coastal community in southern Belize. Photo by Facebook

A former Petawawa soldier has been charged with murder after a mass shooting in Belize killed two and injured eight, including police officers.

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Retired master corporal John Roy Smith, 43, was arrested after the shootings at a night club on July 31 in Hopkins Village, a coastal community in southern Belize. He was originally charged by police with two counts of abetment to commit murder but on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Belize those charges were changed to murder.

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

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

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.

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He later operated a furniture-making business in the Barrie, Ont., area but recently moved to Belize.

Smith and the other men are now in the Belize Central Prison. The allegations against them have not been proven in court.

The shootings have rocked the Caribbean nation. John Briceno, the Prime Minister of Belize, said Saturday at a news conference that such incidents are rare in his country. “I don’t think we could really find adequate words to express just the horror of what happened in Hopkins,” he said. “It’s something that’s so unbelievable. It’s something that, in my mind, just doesn’t happen here.”

The last time a mass shooting happened was in 2008, at a bar іn Веlіzе Сіtу whеn 14 реорlе wеrе ѕhоt, police said.

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Belize news outlets broadcast video last week of the four handcuffed suspects guarded by heavily armed police as they were led into a court for an initial appearance. Smith appeared to have a black eye. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 9.

Belize’s commissioner of police, Chester Williams, told journalists the incident appears 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.

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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, the Belize newspaper, Amandala, reported.

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

Williams said police in Belize had been aware of Smith but the former soldier kept himself largely under the radar. “He has been monitored by the police before but not to,” a great extent, Williams told reporters.

Smith is believed to have moved to Belize around six months ago but police suggested he had been in the country much longer.

“If you go on social media you will see that there are several pictures of him and the other accused men together, hanging out and these sorts of things,” said Williams. “So it shows they are very close associates.”

Smith’s Facebook page has a photo of him with the three accused.

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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.”

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

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