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Mapp Offers $10,000 Reward for Information on Murder of Toddler; No Suspects Yet

It’s too early in the investigation to single out suspects but V.I. Police Department officials said Thursday that they are “actively going after all leads” that could point them in the direction of those responsible for the Wednesday night murder of a toddler who was shot in the Contant Knolls area of St. Thomas.

Police hosted an afternoon press conference Thursday and said that the 17-month-old appeared to be traveling home with her parents around 9:44 p.m. Wednesday when their vehicle was shot.

The girl, who was being held by her mother, was struck in the chest and died later at Schneider Regional Medical Center, while the male driver of the car was treated for a gunshot wound to the thigh.

Police said they could not release any other information, such as the caliber of the gun, because they are waiting for residents or witnesses to confirm their findings.

“There is certain information that we hold back so that people can tell us what they’ve seen and that way we can measure its credibility,” Assistant Police Commissioner Curtis Griffin said. “If we give the info out, then people can call in and say that anyone did it.”

Officials added that while they are also not able to establish a motive at this time, there are officers actively canvassing the area, and others nearby, for information and to actively follow up on any leads.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp said in an audio statement Thursday that he is authorizing a $10,000 reward for any information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers and he called for VIPD, the Attorney General’s Office and federal authorities to do “whatever it takes” to step up their crime fighting efforts, which includes focusing their attention on those individuals known for their involvement in guns, gangs, drugs and other criminal activities.

“The harder we work to curtail these violent acts, the more brutal they become, which is so shocking to the conscience of people of good will,” Mapp said in the statement.

At Thursday’s press conference, Griffin said that group and gang violence is something that law enforcement and the community can attack.

“What the community fails to recognize is that they have a social network, the guys that are involved in this violence, and so when one person shoots another member, now the people that are closely aligned with him are at risk of becoming the next victims. And the more that the community tolerates these guys and support them, the more they also put themselves at risk.”

Instead of being reactive, Griffin said the Police Department has been working closely with its federal partners on-island and focusing on crime prevention.

“If there is group violence, crime prevention is our primary goal and apprehension is secondary, but there is a crime prevention strategy,” Griffin explained. “Let’s say Group A shoots at Group B. If that happens, we can expect some retaliation, so we can deploy resources to those areas to take away the opportunity for one group to retaliate. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

Forming partnerships, such as the one announced Thursday with a nine-member coalition of clergymen led by Pastor Samuel Weekes, is also part of the strategy. Weekes said during the press conference that the mother and child were part of his church, and that the group is going to do what it can to help possible to help police curtail crime in the community.

Residents with information also have to do their part, Weekes added.

“We are mourning the loss of a 17-month-old toddler that was shot last night and we are outraged at this senseless action,” Weekes said. “Not only are the adults unsafe but now we have children out there that are also not safe, and we are dealing with murders and all forms of crime that are just messing up our community. We have to put a stop to this.”

Weekes said the clergy is available to take information from residents who might not want to talk to police.

“Let’s not let this child’s short span of life be in vain,” he said. “This is not the time to hide behind the windows. Let us say something.”

To report any information on this crime, residents can call VIPD’s Homicide Task Force at 340-774-2211 ext. 5579 and 5557. They can also contact 911, Crime Stoppers V.I. at 1-800-222-TIPS or the office of the St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief at 340-715-5548.

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