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Officer's Murder Recounted During Day One of Paris Trial

More than three years after V.I. Police Officer Ariel Frett was gunned down across from Lionel Roberts Stadium in Hospital Ground, one of his accused killers faced a jury for the first time Monday as the murder trial of Jermaine Paris opened in Superior Court.
Frett died after the Feb. 8, 2007 shooting that left him with eight bullet wounds from at least two handguns.
Half-brothers Basheem Ford and Jermaine Paris were originally accused of the killing.
In July 2008, however, Ford was killed by gunfire in the Market Square neighborhood before the case could go to trial, leaving Paris alone to face the charges, including first-degree murder, first- and third-degree assault, and weapons charges – a dozen counts in all.
A legal dispute in 2009 between then presiding judge Leon Kendall and prosecutor Jesse Bethel stalled the trial until Monday, when the jury heard opening arguments and the first few witnesses during the nine-hour proceeding in the court of Judge James Carroll III.
In his opening statement Monday, Bethel said that a “running gunfight” took place that day in Goat Street, Bjerge Gade and the area known as Glass Bottle Alley, near the basketball court. Moments later, Frett was near death on the ground, and Ford bleeding from bullet wounds inflicted by VIPD Officer Lorne Clarke, who happened on the scene in the middle of the fight.
Frett died a short while later at Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Clarke, who testified Monday, said he was heading to police headquarters sometime around 1:30 p.m. that Feb. 8 when he turned south on Bjerge Gade and heard the first gunshot. Passing Lima Market on Goat Street, he heard several more shots and then saw a man running from the scene in his rear view mirror, he said.
Clarke said he stopped his car and ran to the scene with his Glock .40 caliber service weapon drawn just in time to see a struggle between Frett and Ford. When Frett fell to the ground, Ford stood over him and shot him several times, Clarke said.
When Clarke yelled “Police! Drop your weapon!” he said Ford turned and aimed at him, so Clarke shot him, chased him, and shot him again several times until Ford finally fell incapacitated on Goat Street.
While searching Ford for a weapon, he said he heard another series of shots from the area where Frett lay mortally wounded. He ran there in time to see Paris walking or standing near Frett with a black gun in his hand.
“When I said ‘Drop the gun!’ he turned and pointed it at me,” Clarke said Monday, adding that he quickly dodged behind a VITRAN bus.
“I wouldn’t take the risk,” he said to a question from Paris’ defense attorney, Samuel Joseph, as to why he did not go after Paris. “I’m going to fire my weapon or run for cover,” he said.
Paris fled the scene but was arrested three days later after an island-wide manhunt.
In his opening statement Monday, Joseph said the government does not have evidence linking Paris to the murder but admitted that his client was part of a neighborhood brawl that day, which started with Frett, whom he called a “rogue cop.”
“On Feb. 8, 2007… Ariel Frett was in his normal mode of terrorizing the community [of Hospital Ground] as he normally did. Some people decided to fight back,” he said.
Joseph said Frett, who lived nearby and who had just returned from night duty as a cop on St. John, beat Paris and Ford with an axe handle, which was introduced into evidence Monday.
At some point, and by someone, he said, Frett was shot.
“What they are trying to do is associate Mr. Paris with the actions of other people,” Joseph said.
Paris, wearing corn rows and a boxy-fitting beige suit, patted his face with a handkerchief in the frigid courtroom Monday while VIPD forensics assistant Aneaca David verified about 30 photos she took of the 2007 crime scene.
Among them was a photo of an open cell phone found at the scene displaying a photo of Paris on the screen, as well as photos of the axe handle, Ford’s .357 revolver and numerous casings in calibers of .38, .40 and .45 – the latter being the type of weapon Paris is alleged to have fired but which was never recovered.
When a DNA analyst from the FBI testified to evidence linking Ford to the .357, Joseph questioned the credibility of the entire FBI laboratory system, which got a chuckle out of Carroll. Joseph also questioned her assertion that nothing left on the axe handle could be traced to Frett.
Bethel said the issue of the axe handle would fade before the trial was finished because evidence would show that the axe handle was laying in the street out of his reach when Frett was shot on the ground – first by Ford, and then by Paris, according to Bethel.
“He [Frett] had been disarmed, and he was no longer a threat,” Bethel said Monday. “Self-defense isn’t appropriate as a defense.”
Testimony will continue Tuesday. The trial is expected to last several days.

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More than three years after V.I. Police Officer Ariel Frett was gunned down across from Lionel Roberts Stadium in Hospital Ground, one of his accused killers faced a jury for the first time Monday as the murder trial of Jermaine Paris opened in Superior Court.
Frett died after the Feb. 8, 2007 shooting that left him with eight bullet wounds from at least two handguns.
Half-brothers Basheem Ford and Jermaine Paris were originally accused of the killing.
In July 2008, however, Ford was killed by gunfire in the Market Square neighborhood before the case could go to trial, leaving Paris alone to face the charges, including first-degree murder, first- and third-degree assault, and weapons charges – a dozen counts in all.
A legal dispute in 2009 between then presiding judge Leon Kendall and prosecutor Jesse Bethel stalled the trial until Monday, when the jury heard opening arguments and the first few witnesses during the nine-hour proceeding in the court of Judge James Carroll III.
In his opening statement Monday, Bethel said that a “running gunfight” took place that day in Goat Street, Bjerge Gade and the area known as Glass Bottle Alley, near the basketball court. Moments later, Frett was near death on the ground, and Ford bleeding from bullet wounds inflicted by VIPD Officer Lorne Clarke, who happened on the scene in the middle of the fight.
Frett died a short while later at Schneider Regional Medical Center.
Clarke, who testified Monday, said he was heading to police headquarters sometime around 1:30 p.m. that Feb. 8 when he turned south on Bjerge Gade and heard the first gunshot. Passing Lima Market on Goat Street, he heard several more shots and then saw a man running from the scene in his rear view mirror, he said.
Clarke said he stopped his car and ran to the scene with his Glock .40 caliber service weapon drawn just in time to see a struggle between Frett and Ford. When Frett fell to the ground, Ford stood over him and shot him several times, Clarke said.
When Clarke yelled “Police! Drop your weapon!” he said Ford turned and aimed at him, so Clarke shot him, chased him, and shot him again several times until Ford finally fell incapacitated on Goat Street.
While searching Ford for a weapon, he said he heard another series of shots from the area where Frett lay mortally wounded. He ran there in time to see Paris walking or standing near Frett with a black gun in his hand.
“When I said ‘Drop the gun!’ he turned and pointed it at me,” Clarke said Monday, adding that he quickly dodged behind a VITRAN bus.
“I wouldn’t take the risk,” he said to a question from Paris’ defense attorney, Samuel Joseph, as to why he did not go after Paris. “I’m going to fire my weapon or run for cover,” he said.
Paris fled the scene but was arrested three days later after an island-wide manhunt.
In his opening statement Monday, Joseph said the government does not have evidence linking Paris to the murder but admitted that his client was part of a neighborhood brawl that day, which started with Frett, whom he called a “rogue cop.”
“On Feb. 8, 2007… Ariel Frett was in his normal mode of terrorizing the community [of Hospital Ground] as he normally did. Some people decided to fight back,” he said.
Joseph said Frett, who lived nearby and who had just returned from night duty as a cop on St. John, beat Paris and Ford with an axe handle, which was introduced into evidence Monday.
At some point, and by someone, he said, Frett was shot.
“What they are trying to do is associate Mr. Paris with the actions of other people,” Joseph said.
Paris, wearing corn rows and a boxy-fitting beige suit, patted his face with a handkerchief in the frigid courtroom Monday while VIPD forensics assistant Aneaca David verified about 30 photos she took of the 2007 crime scene.
Among them was a photo of an open cell phone found at the scene displaying a photo of Paris on the screen, as well as photos of the axe handle, Ford’s .357 revolver and numerous casings in calibers of .38, .40 and .45 – the latter being the type of weapon Paris is alleged to have fired but which was never recovered.
When a DNA analyst from the FBI testified to evidence linking Ford to the .357, Joseph questioned the credibility of the entire FBI laboratory system, which got a chuckle out of Carroll. Joseph also questioned her assertion that nothing left on the axe handle could be traced to Frett.
Bethel said the issue of the axe handle would fade before the trial was finished because evidence would show that the axe handle was laying in the street out of his reach when Frett was shot on the ground – first by Ford, and then by Paris, according to Bethel.
“He [Frett] had been disarmed, and he was no longer a threat,” Bethel said Monday. “Self-defense isn’t appropriate as a defense.”
Testimony will continue Tuesday. The trial is expected to last several days.