Joe O'Donnell, an Australian living in West End, Roatan, was shot in the back on the street in front of Crystal Beach Cabins
by Sam Wesley, the property owner. Mr. O'Donnell was unarmed and approximately 50 feet away from Sam Wesley's property. The shooting occurred August 19th around 12:30 pm in broad daylight in front of witnesses, several of whom helped Mr. O'Donnell as he lay bleeding in the streets, with Sam's wife Rosita yelling at the crowd to leave him alone. Mr. O'Donnell was eventually flown to CEMESA
Hospital in San Pedro Sula hospital for surgery to remove the bullet from his back.
Sam Wesley turned himself in to local police and was released the next day. Details
are still a bit sketchy as to whether Mr. Wesley has been released under house arrest or under his own recognisance since several locals have witnessed Mr. Wesley leaving his house and taking tourists on boat tours.
After a flurry of calls, emails, and Facebook posts, a meeting was scheduled for August 25th between 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm at Coconut Tree Restaurant
in West End to find out what had happened and what people could do to help. Mark Flanagan, a resident of West End and long-time friend of the victim, set the tone of the meeting and encouraged all attendees to remain positive and calm as he proceeded to clarify the details. Mark and his wife Joanie had been assaulted several months ago resulting in the closing down of their business, Oasis Lounge, in Sandy Bay. The assailants were never caught or charged. Not wanting the shooting of their friend Joe O'Donnell to be another repeat of unanswered and unpunished crimes, Mark and Joanie decided to try and unite the local community behind this latest assault to make sure that justice is done according to the law, and there has been no shortage of local residents answering their call.
Mark alleviated the group's fears by confirming that the judicial process was in fact proceeding along as it should. The police on the scene had done their job, La Fiscalia also had been taking statements and filing charges. The concern of the group was to make sure that Mr. Wesley does not buy himself out of trouble, a far too common practice in Honduras. Mitch Cummins, long-time resident of Roatan, owner of Paradise Computers,
founding member of Bulldog Security, and Rotary Club member, also offered encouraging words of support reminding folks, "This is not a 'Gringo' problem, this is an 'Island' problem, and Islanders should put a face on" the newly proposed Roatan Action Committee that will be following this case to its conclusion, getting petitions signed, and contacting local press, international media, and embassies to keep the attention on what should be an open-and-shut case.
Certainly the anger was palpable among the residents in attendance, and Mark repeatedly implored that people do not provoke the Wesley's and to let the judicial process continue. He also reminded the attendees that as per the law, here and abroad, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and that Mr. Wesley is to have his day in court on September 14th for the first hearing. Residents were encouraged to attend but not to protest. Several strategies were discussed to help this case, including hiring a lawyer, collecting signatures to present to the judge, preparing legal options to 'denounce' the judge if he should end up dropping the charges, that is to say, was paid off. The committee plans on keeping the attention on the judicial process and keeping as many international eyes on the case as possible.
A tearful Joe O'Donnell
joined the meeting from his hospital bed via Skype video from his laptop. Indeed his courage and endurance are pulling him through as he works to regain the use of his right leg. The case is being held as the litmus test for justice in Roatan. If justice cannot be served with such a clear case of attempted murder, many of us wonder about our futures here in Roatan. Businesses are very concerned over these issues -- too many murders, of gringos and islanders alike, have gone unsolved or have been pushed under the rug.
The Roatan Action Committee
is asking for volunteers in preparation of the court appearance. They may be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 9602-2400 and Facebook.