Jason Carroll, the 18-year-old victim of a daylight shooting on Main Street in the heart of the Charlotte Amalie shopping district, was an innocent bystander, police sources confirmed late Tuesday night based on a preliminary investigation.
Carroll, the son of Assistant U.S. Attorney James Carroll and his wife, Cecelia, was shot in the chest and arm as he walked past the Main Street entrance to Drake's Passage, police said. He staggered across the street and collapsed on the sidewalk in front of Princess Jewelers, where he died a few minutes later as Joe Elmore, a local resident and longtime American Red Cross worker with experience in war-torn areas, was attempting cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Elmore and his lunch companion, St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce executive director Joe Aubain, heard the shots as they were returning to the chamber offices after having lunch on Back Street. As Elmore began CPR, Aubain rushed into a nearby store to call police.
The gunfire broke out about 1:25 p.m. Tuesday after a fight erupted between two unidentified individuals, police said. Carroll was struck by two bullets, in the chest and the left arm. One police source said there was no evidence that he had been shot while attempting to foil a robbery at a Drake's Passage store, as some early, unconfirmed reports suggested. "He was merely walking past the Drake's entrance when he was struck by the bullets," the source said.
Carroll had just completed his freshman year as a full-time student at the University of the Virgin Islands. A close family friend said he had gone into town Tuesday to look for a summer job.
UVI president Orville Kean expressed his sympathies to the Carroll family Tuesday night, saying, "Any senseless loss of life should be abhorrent to the community. At UVI, when we lose one of our students, a young person like this, it hits us especially hard."
On Tuesday afternoon, police were seeking a black male with shoulder-length dreadlocks, about 5'8" in height, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. Witnesses said shortly after the shooting that the assailant fled toward the Back Street area. There were other reports that the gunman made his getaway through Drake's Passage to the waterfront. Deputy Police Chief Theodore Carty asked that anyone with information contact the Major Crime Task Force by calling 774-2196, 774-4050 or 911.
Tuesday's shooting occurred as hundreds of tourists from the only cruise ship in port, the Century, wandered throughout the shopping district. When the gunshots rang out, most ran for cover in nearby stores, one shop owner said. The Virgin Islands Independent quoted a tourist from Michigan as saying that he and another Century passenger had been walking out of a Main Street gift shop about 50 feet from the place where Carroll fell "and I heard two loud pops. We turned around and saw this kid drop his bag and slump against that wall there by the jewelry store."
Sens. David Jones and Roosevelt David, who heard about the shooting while having lunch at Gladys's Restaurant in Royal Dane Mall, joined the crowd that gathered at the scene. Both decried the brazen daylight shooting in the heart of downtown St. Thomas as tourists nearby photographed and videotaped the crime scene.
Jones said he was "outraged that vagabonds would come into the heart of town to fight and open gunfire which today killed an innocent man." He termed the killing "another nail in the coffin of tourism in the Virgin Islands." Jones, who chairs the Senate committee which has tourism as one of its areas of focus, had presided over a four-hour hearing the night before on the topic of how to address the territory's foundering hospitality industry.
Two hours after Tuesday's shooting, the yellow crime scene tape put up earlier by police had been removed, and all that was left to remind shoppers and pedestrians physically of the violence were the chalk outline and blood stains on the ground where Carroll fell to his death and a blood-soaked blue towel lying within its perimeter.
The killing was the eighth in the territory this year and the fifth in the St. Thomas-St. John district. It was the third shooting in downtown Charlotte Amalie within a month. A man was shot in the chest in the Savan on Sunday. Another 18-year-old, also an innocent victim, was shot in the back on Snegle Gade behind Back Street on April 25 and was left paralyzed as a result. Police have announced no arrests in either case.
Editor's note: For further details on the shooting, see the earlier story headlined "Gunfire kills man on Main Street, St. Thomas."