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MAN GUNNED DOWN BY THREE HIT MEN

Nov. 13, 2001 – The bulletproof vest worn by Leander Smith Jr. didn't help Tuesday when three heavily armed masked men gunned him down in a deadly barrage of bullets in front of the Charles Harwood Medical Complex on St. Croix.
Smith, 32, died from several gunshot wounds at about 3 p.m., despite the bulletproof vest and after he crashed his vehicle in an attempt to get away from what appeared to be a gangland-style hit, said St. Croix Deputy Police Chief Novelle Francis.
Francis said Smith, a resident of La Vallee, was either getting into his car or leaving it in front of Riverdale Distributing, across the street from the Charles Harwood Complex, when the trio of gunmen opened fire.
Smith managed to drive across Northside Road and onto the grounds of the hospital complex. Francis said Smith struck several parked vehicles before he got out and collapsed. He was pronounced dead shortly after.
According to Francis, witnesses said the gunmen were armed with "high-powered rifles" and fled in a black SUV with heavily tinted windows. Francis said no weapons were recovered at the scene and investigators were trying to determine if they were shotguns or semi-automatic rifles.
He said investigators had no idea why Smith was wearing the bulletproof vest.
About 45 minutes after the murder, the V.I. Fire Service received a call of a house fire in the Frederiksted area. It turned out to be a blazing Ford Explorer. Francis said investigators were trying to determine whether the incident was connected to the murder.
Because of the location of the murder and the fact that the victim was wearing a bulletproof vest, Francis said investigators don't believe Smith's death was a simple drive-by shooting but rather an organized hit.
"It's all preliminary, so we can't speculate at this point," Francis said. "But we don't believe this was a drive-by."
The fatal shooting brings the number of homicides for this year to 10 on St. Croix and 21 in the territory.

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Nov. 13, 2001 - The bulletproof vest worn by Leander Smith Jr. didn't help Tuesday when three heavily armed masked men gunned him down in a deadly barrage of bullets in front of the Charles Harwood Medical Complex on St. Croix.
Smith, 32, died from several gunshot wounds at about 3 p.m., despite the bulletproof vest and after he crashed his vehicle in an attempt to get away from what appeared to be a gangland-style hit, said St. Croix Deputy Police Chief Novelle Francis.
Francis said Smith, a resident of La Vallee, was either getting into his car or leaving it in front of Riverdale Distributing, across the street from the Charles Harwood Complex, when the trio of gunmen opened fire.
Smith managed to drive across Northside Road and onto the grounds of the hospital complex. Francis said Smith struck several parked vehicles before he got out and collapsed. He was pronounced dead shortly after.
According to Francis, witnesses said the gunmen were armed with "high-powered rifles" and fled in a black SUV with heavily tinted windows. Francis said no weapons were recovered at the scene and investigators were trying to determine if they were shotguns or semi-automatic rifles.
He said investigators had no idea why Smith was wearing the bulletproof vest.
About 45 minutes after the murder, the V.I. Fire Service received a call of a house fire in the Frederiksted area. It turned out to be a blazing Ford Explorer. Francis said investigators were trying to determine whether the incident was connected to the murder.
Because of the location of the murder and the fact that the victim was wearing a bulletproof vest, Francis said investigators don't believe Smith's death was a simple drive-by shooting but rather an organized hit.
"It's all preliminary, so we can't speculate at this point," Francis said. "But we don't believe this was a drive-by."
The fatal shooting brings the number of homicides for this year to 10 on St. Croix and 21 in the territory.