Belmopan double murder shatters families’ New Year’s Eve

The content originally appeared on: Amandala Newspaper

Photo: PC Elmer Nah, charged with multiple offenses

by Charles Gladden

BELMOPAN, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023

On Saturday night, New Year’s Eve, two brothers known to be law-abiding citizens, one of them a tech expert in conservation, were at a small family gathering in Belmopan when both of them were brutally gunned down by a triggerman who also shot their wives—one of whom was shot six times as she reportedly tried to shield her 5-year-old child. It was an incident that would not long after be seen by countless Belizeans on their phone screens after surveillance footage of the shooting was circulated via WhatsApp—revealing the manner in which the gunman, with cold precision, entered the yard and ensured the death of the two men.

The person who has been detained for the crime, whose manner of walking and overall characteristics were quickly recognized by police who viewed the video, is a former member of the Police Department’s Commander Operations Strike Team (COST) who is on interdiction for involvement in the landing of a drug plane: Elmer Nah, 39. Nah, the nephew of former Assistsnt Commissioner of Police, Marco Vidal (who once headed the police’s Gang Suppression Unit and COST) had in 2021 been found in a car with a stash of weapons from the Police Department, and had been previously accused of being involved in high-profile executions—accusations that, in the eyes of some, suggest that Nah might be an experienced hitman. Adding even further sinister undertones to the shooting on New Year’s Eve are possible connections being considered by police between the shooting of the two brothers and a previous shooting incident that took place just days before in Belmopan, and which might also have involved Nah.

At the time of the incident, the two brothers, Jon Ramnarace, 38, and David Ramnarace, 29, were at Jon’s residence on Belen Street in the Maya Mopan area of Belmopan. According to police, David, along with his common-law wife, Yemi Alberto, went to enjoy New Year’s Eve festivities at the home of Jon, who worked as a technology specialist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and his wife, Vivian Belisle. Security camera footage shows the sequence of events that occurred prior to the chilling executions. At about 7:39 p.m., Jon could be seen exiting the home and standing in the yard several feet away from the others, who were standing at the doorway of the home.

Seconds before the shooting, a small car with its trunk open slowly passed the video frame. Moments later, an individual could be seen walking, then jogging up the street and entering the yard. That person began firing shots, first at Jon, then at David, then he pursued the two women, who sought refuge inside the home.

Reports have suggested that Belisle was shot as many as 6 times, and that at the time of the shooting, Jon and Vivian’s 5-year-old daughter, whom Vivian tried to shield, was inside the home, but managed to escape unharmed through the back door.

Within seconds, the shooter returned outside and shot Jon twice in the head and moved over to David, firing several shots at David before fleeing the scene in the direction of a car that appeared in the video footage moments after the fatal shooting.

David died at the scene, while Jon was pronounced dead at 8:01 p.m. at the Western Regional Hospital. Belisle was rushed for surgery and is currently in a stable condition. Alberto is also listed as being in stable condition.

What Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, has indicated to local reporters is that the vehicle which appeared at the beginning of the video of the shooting played no role in the assassination, but that a vehicle believed to be owned by Nah has been tied to the shooting.

He then pointed to several solid pieces of evidence that reportedly indicate that Nah was the triggerman with a light on his head who entered Jon Ramnarace’s yard and unleashed terror on that family.

To begin with, when investigators searched the area, they were able to discover several expended shells, which they transported to the National Forensic Science Service to determine whether they were fired from a police-issued firearm. Investigators also secured statements from witnesses, and additional video footage, which led them to go to Nah’s home to detain him.

According to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, when they arrived at the home, Nah was wearing on his head a head light that was identical in appearance to the one seen on the gunman’s head in the video footage of the shooting. Inside his home, said Williams, an assortment of other items that serve as evidence of his involvement in the shooting was found.

“It was clear that he was our main suspect, but you would know that we can’t just charge on what we know or believe. We have to charge based on evidence, and we have to interview a number of persons, and I’m sure you understand the unwillingness of people to cooperate with investigations, but we’re able to find a couple of witnesses who cooperated with us, and based on that we’re able to levy charges,” said Commissioner Williams.

In reference to the video which shows the coldhearted manner in which the gunman (presumed to be Nah) carried out the crime, Williams said, “It was certainly nauseating, to say the least. This is my opinion: the shooter has a wealth of experience in handling firearms, and the way he manoeuvred the firearm and manoeuvred himself showed that he is well-trained. He had a specific intent to kill: even after he had shot the victims outside he went in and came out back. I don’t want to go too graphic, but what he did when he came back outside showed the clear intent to kill. Obviously, the time he spent inside the house, demonstrates that he had all intent to kill the females who were in there.”

Prior to this most recent incident, there were a number of other sensational crimes in which Nah allegedly had some involvement. In November of 2021, Corporal Elmer Nah and PC Manuel Caliz were found in possession of 139 rounds of .223 ammunition (which had previously been held by the Police Department) at an Independence checkpoint shortly after a drug plane landed near Bladen village in Toledo. Nah and Caliz were among several members of the Police Department, including members of the subsequently disbanded Commander Operations Strike Team (COST), who were found in the area after the landing and were arrested and criminally charged for their suspected role in facilitating the landing. Nah and Caliz were also facing a police internal tribunal in connection with the weapons that were found, but in mid-2022 the tribunal handed down a not guilty verdict in regard to the disciplinary charge of “Failure to Obey a Lawful Order” that had been brought against the two men, who have been interdicted and out on bail since being charged in connection with the plane landing. Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, had seemingly objected to that tribunal’s decision, and according to a September 2022 issue of the AMANDALA, he had requested the file containing the notes of evidence, and stated that his legal team would review the notes of evidence to “see whether or not the adjudicator erred in his decision acquitting the two gentlemen.”

It has also been noted that in November of 2021, after the discovery of the weapons in the vehicle Nah was driving, the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, had stated, “The ammunition that he had was assigned, and it is from the Police Department, and it is excessive in my personal opinion. He was on leave, so he was not ought to have had that ammunition.”

But there are other accusations that have been leveled against Nah prior to the New Year’s Eve shooting that long suggested that he was capable of extreme violence.

Notably, during testimony in court, Michelle Brown, a woman police officer who was accused of fatally shooting Belize City barber, Fareed Ahmad, in December 2017, while he was giving her a ride in his vehicle, had identified Nah as the gunman who actually carried out the killing. The AMANDALA had reported that Brown, in a statement she delivered from the dock before Justice Williams, had said that she had hitched a ride with Ahmad in his BMW SUV, and that she was in the car with him as he traveled along the George Price Highway. Brown said that when they reached Hattieville, she attempted to exit the vehicle, but she remained in the vehicle after Ahmad offered to drive her further.

According to an AMANDALA report on her testimony in court, “Brown further testified that while the vehicle was stationary, a police officer whom she identified as Corporal Elmer Nah, entered the vehicle through one of the back doors, uttered some words, and then pointed a firearm at the back of her head and tried to fire twice, but the gun snapped.”

Brown further stated that after the vehicle was back in motion, Corporal Nah then turned the gun on Ahmad, and, according to Brown, a struggle ensued between the two men at that point and the gun discharged, after which Nah allegedly jumped out of the vehicle.

Brown additionally told the court that after the incident, she was taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, and while she was there, she was visited by a man who threatened to kill her children if she spoke on the matter.

Other persons have also claimed that they were threatened by Nah. An AMANDALA article dated November 13, 2021, reported that Edward Martinez (known as a “whistleblower” who on several occasions had exposed inappropriate conduct by police) claimed publicly that he received threats via the Facebook Messenger profile of Corporal Elmer Nah. Police Commissioner Williams had, in response to the claims, told local reporters, “I can assure you that Corporal Nah did not have his phone while he was in lock-up. I don’t know if someone may have had access to his account or it’s a fake account that someone created and is using to do it. But I have advised Edward Martinez to come in and make a report, and we will be able to investigate to see exactly where the messages are coming from.”

And in February 2021, Nah’s name resurfaced once more when the family of Raphael Garrido expressed their belief that he was responsible for the disappearance and murder of their loved one, who was found buried in a shallow grave weeks after going missing.

This week, Commissioner Williams told local media that despite the many allegations against Nah, evidence is required for police to take action. “Since Nah has been on interdiction, police have been to his home on a number of occasions to conduct searches. So while yes, he has been inactive, we have been on him as well, and as the Commissioner, I can only do so much. There are many police officers I wish I could do away with, but what can I do? I am a creature of law, and we have to go through a process in order to dismiss somebody, and Nah is going through that process,” he noted.

Additionally, it appears that there might be evidence linking Nah to a shooting that occurred in Belmopan not far from the residence of Jon Ramnarace just a few days before the New Year’s Eve shooting. Some have speculated that Ramnarace was an eyewitness of that shooting, and that it was for that reason he was targeted and killed.

Commissioner Williams seemed to affirm that Nah might have been involved in the shooting of Michael Williams, which took place about two streets from Ramnarace’s home.

“We believe they are connected—yes, the same perpetrator did both of them. There was a particular person who said that when she peeped out, the gunman fired at her, and she ran back into her home. She could not describe him any at all, so at this time we don’t have anything to indicate a description to tie to the second one, but based on the MO, we believe that it’s the same person,” Williams told reporters.

But Williams seemed to dismiss suggestions that Ramnarace might have been an eyewitness.

“The police did not even approach the Ramnarace in respect to that matter, and they live quite a distance; it’s about two streets away, and I have heard the rumors in the public domain that they were witnesses, and that is not so,” he said.

Nah was arraigned on Tuesday, January 3, in the Magistrate Court in Belmopan, where he was charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder, use of deadly means of harm, and dangerous harm. He was remanded, and according to Commissioner Williams, special efforts are being made by the Police Department to ensure that he is not granted bail.

It has also been announced that a special prosecutor will be appointed to prosecute the case, since the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Cheryl Lynn Vidal, is the estranged wife of former Assistant Commissioner of Police, Marco Vidal—Nah’s uncle.

A press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society states, in reference to the death of Jon Ramnarace, “Jon brought his gregarious nature, enthusiasm, and technology competency to our conservation programs, supporting many national initiatives intended to help safeguard Belize’s marine and terrestrial resources.”