Published in:

Approaching Laddie's One Year Anniversary on July 14th

Last Updated: June 22, 2022

He was taken from us all but lives on forever in our big communal heart

We're finding it hard to believe, and even harder to face, the fact that we're approaching the first anniversary of Laddie's murder.

On one hand, it seems like so much has happened since that terrible night of July 14, 2021. On the other hand, we continue to miss Laddie so dearly, with emotions still so raw, that it feels like it was only yesterday that he was taken from us.

And while time has yet to soften our grief, it has allowed us to move from anger to resolve. We are now committed towards directing our anguish and resentment into more positive actions that will better honor Laddie and his legacy - and in ways that will bring Belizeans together and benefit our young people.

We know that Laddie would approve.

This does not mean that we're relinquishing our pursuit of justice for Laddie, or relaxing demands that former police corporal Kareem Martinez be held to account for his crime in a court of law.

Laddie on far right

But just as Laddie brightened every room he walked into, his eternal spirit, and the good works that so many Belizeans are doing in his name, continue to bring light into our lives.

This is what we will be celebrating July 14.

And this is what's behind the "Shine A Light For Laddie" initiative that communities across Belize are invited to participate in. Starting at 8.00 pm on July 14th, it's a nationwide event you can participate in wherever you are, either as an individual, a family, or a group. All you need is a candle.

laddie gillett three weeks on portrait journals

For now, it's enough to say that, with so many people in towns and villages across the country holding a lit candle, we'll all form a constellation stretching across Belize that will shine light into darkness. We will sing, pray, and show that, as a nation, we still care.

We'll also be asking for submissions of smartphone videos from various communities that can be edited into one short, powerful piece on Laddie's website.

It's about solidarity, and an affirmative celebration of Laddie's short life.

It's about creating positive change.

Laddie Gillett Birthday Celebration

For some time after Laddie's murder, our posts were focused on bringing Martinez to justice, and we shared descriptions of the pain and frustration we, and communities across Belize were feeling. Looking back, it was a way to share the burden of grief; a cathartic response to the unimaginable.

And as news of Laddie's murder spread, more and more people came together and joined in to express their shock, outrage and sorrow.

People of all ages participated in candlelight vigils held across Belize, with Justice for Laddie trending nationwide. Local recording artist Stig Da Artist wrote and performed "Don't Shoot, I'm Just A Youth," inspiring signs, memes, tee shirts and other ways of showing that we're all in this together.

In short, Somos Laddie: We Are All Laddie,

With the start of a new year, however, we made a conscious decision to stop posting, feeling that it was time to step back and allow Laddie's family and friends to begin 2022 on a more positive note.

However, as you may have seen, efforts to honour Laddie, his life, aspirations and the joy he brought into the world continued.

A non-profit organization, the Justice For Laddie Foundation was established to carry on Laddie's legacy and provide support for Belize's young people. Three billboards remembering Laddie were positioned entering San Ignacio, Belize City, and along the Hummingbird Highway, and two community projects - Laddie's Playground at St Andrew's School, and Laddie's Memorial Garden in Placencia at the scene of the shooting, have been underway, with more projects to follow.

Laddie's Law, a list of common-sense measures, had earlier been composed as a way to create transparency and accountability, and to regenerate communication and trust between police and the communities they serve.

Laddie's Foundation board and family members have since been liaising with the Police Department and training academy officials to try and implement these measures.

And now, on July 14, at 2:00PM in Placencia the unveiling of his Laddies Memorial Garden will take place. After the initial ceremony a "Finish Laddie's Run" marathon will begin from the place he took his last breath to his wished-for destination at Chabil Mar.

Please visit the website for updates and more details about Laddie's Day, July 14. And in the spirit of Somos Laddie, we look forward to hearing your comments and ideas.

It is said that time heals all wounds. Maybe we're just not there yet. But what we do know for sure, and continue to learn, is that people and communities coming together to support each other makes it easier to see the good in life, to let go of negativity and embrace positivity.

This is what Laddie’s Memorial Day, July 14 is all about. And we're sure Laddie would agree.

Because, at the end of the day, here in Belize, Somos Laddie.

Update - former police corporal Kareem Martinez.

Martinez was finally dismissed from the police service in November 2021, nearly four months after he killed Laddie, during which time he continued to
be paid. He has appealed his dismissal.

Like so many people across Belize, we are appalled that Laddie's killer has been allowed to walk free and enjoy life after wantonly taking the life of an innocent 14-year-old boy, and inflicting pain and suffering on so many friends and families.

The fact that Martinez has never expressed responsibility, remorse or regret for his actions, and actually appealed his dismissal from the police force, only adds to our collective resolve that he pay for his brutal crime. Belizean authorities must set an example that no one - wearing a badge or not, is above the law.

It is time that Kareem Martinez faces justice in a court of law.