April 29, 2004 – Virgin Islanders reached readily into their pockets throughout the day Thursday as a local broadcasting company launched a drive for the Chapman Family Aid Fund to benefit the family of slain police officer Cuthbert Chapman.
Jonathan Cohen, owner of JKC Communications, said the DJs at his radio stations wanted to show their support for the officer and do something to help his family. Chapman died Monday after having been shot on April 17 during a robbery attempt at the Wendy's restaurant in Sunny Isle Shopping Center, where he was on private duty as a security guard.
Chapman, a 12-year police veteran, was married and the father of six sons ages 2 to 20. Friday is the 2-year-old's birthday.
Called "Kimba" or "Broths" by his family, Chapman was a standout basketball player in high school then enlisted in the military. After returning to civilian life, he joined the police force.
JKC owns three FM stations — Isle 95, Sunny 99.5 and Mongoose 104.9. On-air personalities on all three rallied the community for support throughout the day. "We wanted to step up to the plate," Cohen said.
The broadcast drive began at 7 a.m. with a goal of $20,000. As of 5 p.m., JKC management reported that about $25,000 had been raised.
Collection points were set up at Gallows Bay Hardware, Lord God of Sabaoth Lutheran Church in Christiansted and the Sunny Isle Shopping Center intersection of Melvin Evans Highway.
Three officers with white 5-gallon buckets were posted on either side of the intersection, a locale where police often issue citations to seat-belt violators. The traffic backup of willing donors did not seem to bother other motorists who waited patiently during rush-hour drive time.
Police Officer Esther McLeod smiled and thanked motorists as they dropped donations into the white canvas bank-deposit bag she held.
Leroy Ford, a retired police officer, drove up in his gray pickup truck with his wife. "I heard what happened to the gentleman," he said. "It was not good. It was bad. Sorry they haven't caught anyone yet."
"I work with his brother," Rhea Hodge told the officer accepting her donation. "I think it is a shame what has happened."
Radio personalities joined police officers in taking to the streets and roads. Under the Diamond Cinema marquee, DJ Derek Brown used a police cap to collect donations from passing motorists, skipping from car to car, his dreadlocks jumping around.
"It is going wonderful," Brown said. "People are really opening up their hearts. It's a success so far. If they don't have, they go back home and return with a donation."
Brown asked radio listeners to honk their horns in support as they passed by. "This can happen to anyone," he said. "Anyone of us could have been in Wendy's with their family."
Kathleen McManus at Mongoose extended the plead for donations to her listeners calling in for song requests. "Anything counts," she said. "It all adds up."
Glenn Dratte, who worked behind the scenes at the JKC offices, said after his newscast on Sunny: "We are celebrating a life."
On Isle 95, Raydell James of the "Big Fat Mawnin Show" urged listeners to raise their consciousness. He said the family of slain police officer Dexter Mardenborough called in to offer emotional support and a donation of $200. Mardenborough was killed in 1991 by assailants in the Christiansted graveyard.
Businesses and community groups joined in, with officials stopping by or faxing their pledges.
A Hovensa official said the refinery would make a contribution equal to the $10,000 it had offered earlier in the week for a reward fund. The Wendy's owners also contributed $10,000 to that effort, and the Police Department provided $11,000 for a total of $31,000 offered for the capture and conviction of the persons responsible for Chapman's death.
In a radio message on Thursday afternoon, Cassandra Chapman, the officer's sister, said her family is thankful for the community's support. She said their telephones have not stopped ringing.
"We appreciate it all from the depths and bottom of our hearts," she said. "What we will like the community to do is stand together. Please don't let this be a one-time thing. He died a peaceful death just the way he lived."
She invited the community to attend her brother's funeral. Police authorities said arrangements still are pending.
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis went the air to ask for the community's help in tracking down the assailants. "I am appealing to citizens of the Virgin Islands to come forward," he said. "With your help we can bring these brutal murderers to justice."
Lewis said donations to the Chapman Family Aid Fund and to the reward fund may be made by check or money order payable to Virgin Islands Police Department, specifying in the memo section which fund the money is for. He said the contributions may be mailed to the Office of the Police Commissioner, 45 Marshill, Frederiksted VI 00840.
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