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Corrections Officers Implicated in Inmates' Escape

Sept. 22, 2008 — Not all the details are known at this point, but it appears that officers working inside Golden Grove Correctional Facility helped three inmates escape from the prison sometime between late Friday night and early Saturday morning, according to Attorney General Vincent Frazer.
"This recent prison break is not the result of a system failure, but willful and gross negligence on the part of officers … and their failure to exercise a certain degree of vigilance," Frazer said during a press conference on St. Thomas. "This kind of wanton disregard for Bureau of Corrections' policy and procedures will not be tolerated, and will be investigated both externally and internally. If we find that there was negligence or participation by the staff, there will be criminal charges filed."
When security in the prison fails, the local community falls into a state of disarray and unrest, said St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta, representing the V.I. Police Department at the joint press conference.
"Immediately upon receiving a call to 911, our dispatchers called in all supervisors from St. Croix to look for the escapees," Benta explained. "When we arrived at Golden Grove … we spent time within the facility conducting other investigations, such as how this happened, and there are a significant amount of things we discovered that we're going to task investigators to move forward with. Yes, some people are definitely going to be held accountable. Yes, arrests are imminent."
Teams from both local and federal law-enforcement agencies have been working since Saturday to recapture the inmates: Edwardo Carmona Jr., Derrick Fredericks and Carlos Burgos. All three were housed in the same cellblock and "somehow managed to escape" from their individual cells, Frazer said.
"They most likely used homemade devices to cut open an exhaust window at the rear end of the block," he said. "Once they got out of the window, they scaled three fences to get out — two of them contained barbed wire."
Efforts are being made to close the window and weld it back in place. Meanwhile, Golden Grove continues to be on lockdown, Frazer said.
Fredericks is still at large, but Burgos was captured without incident just before midnight Sunday, and has since been returned to Golden Grove, Frazer said. Burgos will "most likely" be charged with escaping from prison, the attorney general said.
Police arrested St. Croix resident Liz Brache for helping Burgos while he was on the run, Benta said.
"The community began to reach out very fast when the inmates escaped, and through their efforts we were able to locate Carmona and Burgos," he said. "There were officers stationed at Mon Bijou, a lockdown of the community had been initiated and residents of the community were advised to stay in their homes while the investigation was ongoing.
"But residents felt a strong need to be part of the search — they began to traverse the area in their own vehicles without fear for their safety — and were able to local Mr. Burgos in Mon Bijou, as well. Through their system, the citizens were then able to track Mr. Burgos to the Harvey Housing Community and tell us what house he was in and who he was with."
Carmona, who was apprehended in the Mon Bijou area around 6 p.m. Saturday, died early Sunday morning at Juan F. Luis Hospital after getting shot in the leg by law-enforcement officers and subsequently undergoing emergency surgery.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Carmona's death — including what provoked the shooting — is ongoing, and officials won't be able to comment further until the findings come in, Frazer said.
"It is unfortunate that this incident ended in this manner," he said. "It is not the type of resolution we hope for in these type of situations, but the escape of these three individuals compromised the safety of the community."
It's a "common misconception" that being shot in the leg doesn't constitute a life-threatening injury, Frazer said, adding that it was "touch and go" for Carmona from the time he arrived at the hospital.
The search for Fredericks — who was serving a five-year sentence for second-degree burglary and is considered by officials to be "extremely dangerous" — is still on, and investigators are once again turning to the community for help. But residents are being urged to let the police handle the chase-and-arrest parts of the investigation, Benta said.
"I saw individuals literally running behind the escapees, and that's not good," Benta said. "I know you all want to assist in the best way you can — and the best way to do that is to call us and give us information. Mr. Fredericks, I also urge you to turn yourself in. I can assure you that our community is not asleep. We had a tragic moment with Mr. Carmona — I hope that we don't have that happen again."
A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Fredericks' recapture, Frazer said.
"We will be relentless in finding this last person," he said. Participating in the search are the VIPD, U.S. Marshal Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Corrections.
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