Belize’s Youth Stifled by Gun-Violence

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A son’s sacrifice his life for a father; the life of a Sports Star is snuffed in latest round of gun violence

By Aaron Humes

Freelance Reporter

BELIZE CITY, Tuesday 12th February 2019

The frightening power of the gun has united separate communities in grief, following murders of two promising young men at the weekend.

Both 19 year old Masaki Yanai and 20 year old Dwayne Cummings, a/k/a/ Dwayne Avila, were students of the University of Belize. Yanai was a bright, quiet young man studying engineering while helping his chef father Takayuki at the Taka Kitchen at the Northern Shops on the Philip Goldson Highway. Cummings was in his second year with the Elite Basketball League’s Orange Walk Running Rebels after a stellar collegiate career and dreamed of playing ball at the highest levels.

But on Friday night outside the family home on Park Avenue, Buttonwood Bay, Takayuki and Masaki Yanai were set upon by armed robbers who fatally shot Masaki and critically wounded Takayuki before making off with a sum of money inside a pouch carried by Takayuki at the time.

Police detained and later released one suspect and Commissioner of Police Chester Williams has directed additional assistance from the Major Crimes Section based in Belmopan to solve this case. At a briefing it was noted that as many as four persons may be involved and that the robbers were well set up to attack.

Those who knew the Yanai family are baffled as to why they would be attacked for any reason other than robbery, but all indications are that it was a stick-up gone fatally wrong.

The incident has garnered traction in the Yanais’ native Japan, whose regional correspondents in the U.S. attended Monday’s press briefing. Takayuki got his start in Belize at Senate President Lee Mark Chang’s Chon Saan Restaurant before going out on his own.

Hours later on Saturday, Cummings was leaving the Orange Walk Multi-Purpose Complex following a game with his team and was walking alone on the San Lorenzo Road according to police, when he was shot once to the back of the head, apparently with a 38-caliber weapon as a shell of that variety was found nearby.

Police have ruled out robbery as a motive as Cummings’ belongings were found untouched in the area and to a man, all who knew him said the young man stayed well away from the criminal element.

As a student at Muffles College, according to a school statement, he graduated as the Eloy Avila Athlete of the Year in 2014 and assisted in coaching the school’s teams thereafter.

In his second year in the National Elite Basketball League, Cummings placed second in the vote for Rookie of the Year in 2018 and was a hometown favorite due to a winning personality.

The University of Belize also issued a statement condemning the murders of its two students – Cummings played for the University’s Black Jaguars and was pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Business. “These senseless killings must stop. It is destroying the fabric of our society, especially our promising young students,” University President Dr. Clement Sankat wrote.

In the Cummings case, Police have detained two suspects and urged residents who saw anything to come forward.

The murder count across the country has already reached 14 with the addition of these latest murders.///