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HomeNewsArchivesTWO OFFICERS CHARGED IN ST. JOHN ASSAULT CASE

TWO OFFICERS CHARGED IN ST. JOHN ASSAULT CASE

Departmental charges have been filed against two St. John officers accused of involvement in the assault of a woman in Cruz Bay nearly three weeks ago, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said Wednesday.
The officers’ next appointment is with Chief of Police Jose Garcia for a disciplinary hearing, at a date yet to be made public.
On March 18, one of the officers, Eugene Somersall, reportedly slammed a woman against a car several times after he got involved in a dispute between her and a taxi driver over parking near the ferry dock.
Ten days later, in downtown Charlotte Amalie, another police officer is reported to have physically assaulted a man and verbally abused a woman whose car he was ticketing for a traffic infraction.
In the St. John case, Christian said Officers Somersall and Lorraine Sprauve have been brought up on charges, but he declined to specify what those charges are. "The two officers have been charged, and they await their departmental hearing" before Chief Garcia, the commissioner said.
In the St. Thomas case, involving Officer Loriel "Lala" Charleswell, "the incident is under investigation by both the Insular Affairs Unit and the zone commander," Christian said. He expressed hope that the probes will be concluded "shortly." The FBI is also investigating the St. Thomas case, for possible violation of the victims’ federal civil rights. FBI officials declined to say whether the agency is also looking into the St. John incident.
Like Christian, neither Chief Garcia nor the head of the Police Benevolent Association, Elroy Raymo, would provide any details related to the cases. Of the two St. John officers, Raymo said Wednesday, "They have been charged today, and I don’t have the date of the hearing yet."
Lt. Rene Garcia, the ranking police official on St. John, began an internal investigation following the March 18 incident. There was no indication from Chief Garcia, Lt. Garcia or Raymo as to why the second officer has become an object of the investigation.
Chief Garcia said the Police Department has "a contractual obligation to the officers" and, thus, "We will not disclose the name of any officer" involved in internal proceedings. He added that it also would not be appropriate for him to comment because he may be named as a hearing officer.
Raymo said any police officer called in for a disciplinary hearing would receive a formal notice and a copy would be sent to the PBA. As of Wednesday, he said, he did not know when the hearing would begin. "They have to serve the union. They haven’t served us yet," he said.
Under the police union contract, a disciplinary hearing must be convened within 50 days of the alleged incident triggering it. A conclusion must be reached by 90 days from the start of the hearing.
Raymo reiterated Wednesday that the accused officers continue to have the backing of the union. "We have to do our job," the PBA president said, "but we will do our best to support the officers to the end."
Chief Garcia and Raymo said they were willing to disclose the results of the Cruz Bay incident investigation at the end of the proceedings. Raymo said the public has a right to know if officers accused of wrongdoing are found to be at fault or exonerated.
Editor’s note: For earlier developments, see the preceding story, "FBI investigating assault by St. Thomas cop."

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