Crime comes in waves, St. Croix Deputy Police Chief Christopher Howell said, and Monday in Frederiksted the surf was up, as police responded to four separate incidents in the eight hours from 2 a.m. to 11.
According to Howell, police responded to reports of a fight with weapons at the Sand Bar Restaurant in Frederiksted at about 2 a.m. As they arrived, he said, they saw a white Nissan Pathfinder speeding away with four men inside.
Police stopped the vehicle and a subsequent search revealed a .22 and a .380 caliber handgun.
Jahkim Santiago, 18, and Juan F. Encarnacion III, 24, both of Williams Delight and Alberto Martinez age 19 of Estate Whim Delight were all charged with constructive possession of an unlicensed firearm. A 17-year-old minor was also present, and arrested.
Bail for the adults was set at $25,000 and they were remanded to the custody of the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility. The minor was remanded to the Youth Rehabilitation Facility. All suspects will attend an advice of rights hearing at the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.
Howell said it was not clear that the vehicle and its passengers was in any way connected with the fight at the Sand Bar.
Moments later, at 2:25 p.m., police received reports of shots fired near the Marley Homes, also in Frederiksted.
Police arrived on the scene and observed a number of spent shell casings which were collected for examination. Police were told that two men were transported by private vehicles to the Juan F. Luis Hospital for treatment of gunshot wounds.
One victim is a 25-year-old resident of Williams Delight. He received gunshots to the right elbow and leg. The second victim is a 22-year-old resident of Frits Laweatz Housing community. That victim received a gunshot wound to his upper body. Both victims are still being treated at hospital. Arrests are pending upon their release, according to police
Police Chief Oakland Benta said the shooting victims were in the “Sweet Lyme” bar located at the intersection of Fisher and King Street before the exchange of gunfire.
“The Police Department has been in talks with the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs regarding the type of license the establishment possesses and in light of this incident we are advocating that changes be made to the businesses hours of operation,” Benta said.
Then, as police were wrapping up the initial investigation of those incidents this morning, there was an incident at Frederiksted’ Edward Albert Fish Market. According to Howell, police on routine patrol passed through the area at about 10 a.m., saw contraband and attempted to seize it.
The police were confronted by citizens at the scene. One man attempted to assault officers with a machete, according to Howell. The man was subdued with pepper spray. A woman allegedly struck officer’s with her hands. Both were taken into custody and arrested.
Bericia Frederick, 25 of Aureo Diaz Housing Community, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and obstructing and delaying a police officer while performing his duties.
Alembert Vandeennest, age 33 of Estate Two Brothers, was also arrested and charged with brandishing a deadly weapon, aggravated assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and obstructing and delaying a police officer while performing his duties.
Bail for both suspects was set at $25,000. Both were remanded to the custody of the Golden grove Adult Correction Facility pending further court action.
Howell said there is a belief among some of the people who frequent the Fish Market that it is some sort of sanctuary, that the police cannot or will not go there.
“We can and we will,” he said. “We will go there and we will enforce the laws.”
Howell said there was no immediately apparent connection between any of the incidents. Police were still investigating and completing reports at the time, he added, so details were incomplete.
Asked why there had been a sudden outbreak of violent crime in Frederiksted, including a homicide last week that was the first in the territory for the new year, Howell said that crime is cyclic, that there will be a wave of violent offenses, then a lull, then another wave.
Police on St. Croix have been very aggressive in the last month in making traffic stops and seizing weapons, Howell said.
“Unfortunately, as today’s incidents show, we’ve still got quite a lot to go.”
Editor’s note – This story was updated at 7:15 p.m. Monday with additional information provided by the V.I. Police Department.