St. Croix police are investigating an early Saturday shooting that left a 24-year-old man dead, a shooting Police Commissioner Designee Novelle Francis said was “clearly an act of retaliation.”
The shooting took place at about 12:45 a.m. Saturday near the Elena Christian Elementary School. The victim, Marlin Roberts, of Estate La Vallee, died after being shot several times.
According to preliminary reports, police responded to shots fired in the vicinity of the school and found several spent shell casing on the road. At the same time, members of the Territorial Anti-Gang Intervention Task Force (TAGIT) observed and followed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed near Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital.
As the vehicle entered into the hospital parking lot, officers noticed several bullet holes on the car. The victim and two other people were inside the vehicle. A check of the vehicle revealed a semi-automatic pistol equipped with an extended magazine.
Police arrested the occupants of the car, Cymandye Phillips of La Vallee and Larry Williams of Estate Peters Rest, both 24, and charged them with unauthorized possession of a firearm. Bail for both suspects was set at $25,000 and they were remanded to the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility pending further court action.
The Major Crime Bureau is following up on this case and the community is asked to assist the police by providing information. Anyone with any information can call detectives at 712-6075, 712-6077 or 712-6037, or the anonymous crime tip service, Crime Stoppers USVI, at 1-800-222-TIPS.
The police department offers a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any homicide suspect.
“Clearly these recent killings are acts of retaliation," said Francis, commenting on the most recent shooting death in the territory. "This recent homicide is connected to the Aug. 2 homicide that claimed the life of 25-year-old Almonzo Williams and wounded two others. The homicide victim, Marlin Roberts, is the brother of one of the surviving victims from that case. Despite the police department carrying out timely arrests and confiscations of weapons, it is clear these individuals are taking it upon themselves to enact street justice on their adversaries."
The commissioner said gang members are retaliating for incidents that grow out of minor feuds and escalate into deadly violence.
He called for the island’s courts to conduct "careful review of each suspect’s background before they are released back into the community."
"When these individuals appear before them with a record that reflects multiple criminal acts or when police officers testify of their association with gangs, they must be remanded into custody until their trial for the safety of the community. On a daily basis, police deal with persons released on bail conditions and awaiting trial who continue to terrorize the community," Francis said.
Saturday’s homicide was the 16th to occur on St. Croix since the beginning of the year, and the 44th in the territory.