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Breaking News / Crime / Featured / News / Top Stories / Virgin Islands / July 29, 2019

ST. CROIX — Governor Albert Bryan and leaders of the Virgin Islands Police Department on Monday at Government House called on Virgin Islanders to provide information leading to the arrest of perpetrators of the incident on Sunday night in Frederiksted where six people were shot, among them women and a possible minor between 16-17 years old. One victim had to be airlifted to the U.S. mainland for further treatment.

Crime Stoppers USVI Chair Laurie Dunton spoke of $15,000 now available for anyone willing to provide information that leads to the arrest of the perpetrators. Ms. Dunton extended her thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, and said, “Every time I stand here in front of this podium, I’m hopeful that it’s the last time. Unfortunately I find myself here again today. When is enough really going to be enough?

She said tipsters provide the information anonymously: phones are not tracked, internet devices are not cached and the cash is delivered to a location of the tipster’s choosing. Crime Stoppers USVI then places the cash in the location and leaves so that the tipster could collect the reward. To provide a tip for last night’s shooting, simply go here.

St. Croix Police Chief William Harvey, in addressing the rise in crime on St. Croix, said the V.I.P.D. would employ “very aggressive initiatives.”

V.I.P.D. Commissioner Nominee, Trevor Velinor, also called on the public to provide information.

He added, “I’m saying to you that the Virgin Islands Police Department, we hear our victims. You had individuals who were trampled, you had individuals who were traumatized. We have to send a message to the community that we will no longer accept this type of behavior. I’m calling on our community that may have heard of the mantra over the years, ‘if you see something, say something’, I’m asking for your assistance… We’re calling on individuals in the community to hear our plea.”

Governor Bryan, too, called on the community to share information that could lead to the arrest of perpetrators. He said community members know who the criminals are. “It’s about high time that we do something about it because this was a crime against our community,” Mr. Bryan said.

The territory’s leader said while the U.S. Virgin Islands isn’t the only jurisdiction with gun violence, “We are a community that has not really taken a strong stance and do something about it.”

He spoke about loopholes in the territory’s permitting system that he suggested make it easier for perpetrators to commit their criminal acts. “I think it’s incumbent upon us and the Legislature to come together and have a permitting system that calls for events having 300-400 people, to have a permit that is signed off for by the chief of police for that district,” Mr. Bryan said. That way, law enforcement could make verifications that demand safety, he explained.

“Violence can happen anywhere, but we have a responsibility to look to see how we can mitigate it, because the number 1 job of our law enforcement is to keep Virgin Islanders and the people that come here safe,” Mr. Bryan went on.

The governor said initiatives such as random stops have been ongoing and have yielded results. And aside from permitting loopholes, he pointed to other weak points in local law that he said allow violent offenders an easy pass. Giving an example, Mr. Bryan mentioned the territory’s arrest laws, which he said provide mandatory bail for individuals involved in shootings, except for murder and other extreme crimes.

“This allows for more violence, retaliations, more shootings to go on in our community. We must have a system that allows for us to take people off the streets and curtail further retaliation and further shooting,” he said.

Another way to help battle crime, Mr. Bryan said, is to put cameras at key locations . He used the Christiansted town as an example, stating that ever since the cameras were installed, crime has decreased drastically.

With employers from a variety of industries looking for people to work, Mr. Bryan said, “This random violence cannot be excused as anything but a wanton disregard for the public safety of Virgin Islands residents, and a wanton disregard for the law.”

In closing, the governor said, “To any of you who may be listening out there, street code is for street man. Community code is when we get involved. Innocent people are being shot. This thing about not ratting, that’s from street man to street man. This is us protecting our community; call and tell people what you know because this is about you and I walking on the streets. It’s about your mom, it’s about your kids getting a stray bullet. It’s spilling over into all of us so we can’t allow people to be warring on turfs by themselves. They’ve involved us now, so it’s time for us to take back our community.”

Shooting at Floatopia

What was otherwise a fun-filled day in Frederiksted at the popular “Floatopia” beach event on Sunday, came to an abrupt end when gunfire erupted in a dense crowd during the nighttime, sending a mass of people running for their lives as the gunmen made their way from the event to the streets, shooting through the throngs and injuring innocent individuals who attended the summer beach party.

According to V.I.P.D. Public Information Officer Glen Dratte, six individuals, including female victims and possibly a minor between 16-17 years old, were injured as a result of the shootout. He said all victims were transported to the Juan F. Luis Hospital for medical treatment by private vehicles. 

The call came in to the 911 emergency call center at about 9:25 p.m. According to Mr. Dratte, “an undisclosed amount of gunshots were discharged from multiple directions,” creating chaos and extreme fear.

The shootout could not have happened at a worse time. The Fort Frederik Beach where the gun battle occurred and the nearby road had so many people that, before the shooting, it took 20 minutes by vehicle to travel a distance that usually takes seconds. And the event was one of the best attended affairs this summer, with a mixture of teens, young adults and middle-aged individuals enjoying themselves. Floatopia had children, too. However, it was unclear as to whether parents with children were still at the beach when the incident broke out.

But as the Sunday occasion neared its end, the shooting broke out from behind the bar area. Then, the gunmen continued shooting — seemingly unbothered by the hundreds of individuals both young and old running frantically for cover — from the event location to the main road, injuring several individuals.

The Consortium had visited what was arguably one of the best attended events all summer to speak with event planner Chad Pringle to write about Floatopia’s success over the years. Yesterday’s effort had a variety of fun activities, including an inflatable foam pit, games and several performances from local artists and deejays. It was the first time that a shooting had occurred at Floatopia, and there was not much the organizer could have done to prevent such an incident at a beach that’s open to all, where crowds are hard to control. Several police officers were on location for the duration of the event.

Mr. Dratte said while most of the victims’ wounds were not life-threatening, one individual who was shot in the shoulder is scheduled to be airlifted to the U.S. mainland for further medical attention today.

Heavy security at the Juan F. Luis Hospital

The Juan F. Luis Hospital had several heavily armed police officers with automatic rifles protecting the medical facility, according to people who were at the hospital for purposes unrelated to the shooting. 

The frantic scene at the hospital’s emergency room caused alarm, too, as individuals injured from the shooting were rushed into the ER, straining the hospital’s limited resources. As of May, J.F.L. only had one functioning operating room.

Feature Image: V.I.P.D. Commissioner Nominee Trevor Velinor, Governor Bryan, Police Chief William Harvey, and Crime Stoppers USVI Chair Laurie Dunton. (Credit: Ernice Gilbert, VIC)

Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected].

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Watch | Scenes of the Shooting Incident In Frederiksted Sunday Night Where 6 People Were Shot

July 29, 2019