July 17, 2008 — Around-the-clock police work, along with information provided by community members and the media, led local law enforcement officials to arrest three suspects in connection with a homicide that occurred Wednesday afternoon on St. Thomas, and another individual for a bank robbery that went down the same day on St. Croix.
During a press conference on St. Thomas Thursday, V.I. Police Department top brass said they had also arrested Jose Bastardo, who has been on the department's Most Wanted List for several months.
Federal officials recently picked up Bastardo –wanted in connection with a November 2007 rape case — in Puerto Rico as he was trying to leave the island, according to District Police Chief Rodney Querrard. Bastardo touched down in the territory Thursday and is being detained pending an advice of rights hearing Friday.
At 5:03 p.m. Wednesday, police responded to a call of shots fired in the upper Hospital Ground area on St. Thomas. Once at the scene, officers found 30-year-old Dwayne Lynch, who had been shot several times.
Police later said a car Lynch was in had collided with a car in the area while trying to evade yet another vehicle that had been pursuing him. Lynch jumped out of his car, and so did the gunman, who shot Lynch.
Lynch died of his wounds around 6:03 p.m. Wednesday at Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Information gathered at the scene led officers to the "downtown area" and several individuals approached by police in the area of Kronprindsens Gade, Querrard said.
"These persons of interest took off on foot after they were approached by police," he added. Police gave chase on foot and apprehended Carlos Acosta, Kaleb Josue and Edgar Ortiz — all Puerto Rico natives in their early-to-mid 20s — near the Western Cemetery. All three were charged with first-degree murder. An ongoing investigation into the murder could lead to more suspects and arrests, Querrard said.
When asked whether Lynch's murder was a contract killing, police said the three suspects had traveled to St. Thomas recently.
"We're being very reserved in commenting further on this case," said acting Police Commissioner Novelle Francis. "These individuals traveled to St. Thomas recently. They committed this incident. But we can neither confirm nor deny whether they were hired to do so."
Police also could not give specifics on a bank robbery that occurred early Wednesday morning on St. Croix. However, they did explain that interviews taken by police and reporters at the scene provided investigators with the information needed to arrest 32-year-old Dwayne Tobal, a Trinidadian native and resident of Estate Campo Rico, on robbery charges.
At about noon Wednesday an alarm at the Bank of St. Croix in Peter's Rest was activated and police were alerted of a robbery in progress, according to police officials. Initial police reports stated that a lone gunman entered the bank, herded employees, patrons and the security guard into one corner, demanded money from the tellers and then additional cash from the vault.
"Before leaving the bank, he got car keys from one of the customers in the bank and used their vehicle to drive at least one building away," said acting St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta. After finding the vehicle, police and officials from other law enforcement agencies were able to get the investigation "going more rapidly," Benta added.
The suspect appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest, and was dressed in all black, "commando style," Benta said.
Police did not reveal how much money was stolen in the robbery. The case is still being "strongly" investigated by the FBI, Benta said.
Community members — who, according to Benta, rallied to the scene of the crime Wednesday — are still being urged to provide information on either incident or any other crime, police said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.