A male suspect being pursued Sunday afternoon by police jumped into Cruz Bay Creek in a failed attempt to avoid arrest, according to witnesses.
Assistant Police Chief David Cannonier said police officers were following up on reports about a crime at the Gifft Hill School when they encountered a suspect in Cruz Bay.
Esiaus Ashley, a 19-year-old male, jumped into the water when police officers approached.
“We suspected he had a firearm on him,” said Cannonier. “He was able to get himself out of the water, but he ditched the firearm. We called in divers to assist.”
Cannonier said Ashley was arrested and remanded to the Bureau of Corrections on St. Thomas.
Rick Gupman, chief ranger for the Virgin Islands National Park, confirmed that a team of divers was able to retrieve a number of items.
Cannonier said a firearm, jewelry, and some other personal items were recovered from the water in the creek.
Gupman said a team of three divers, including himself, NPS Ranger David Horner, and an unnamed female dive instructor from Low Key Watersports, found the items after searching for about an hour.
Gupman said the three divers linked arms and searched in a grid pattern to locate the objects in the water which he estimated to be between seven and 10 feet deep.
Visibility in the creek, a hub for commercial and recreational boating activity in Cruz Bay, was only about two feet, Gupman said.
“We had to put our faces to the seafloor to find anything. I can tell you there are many tires, pieces of boats, cleats, human debris down there. We got snagged on a couple of things a couple of times.”
Social media was abuzz on Sunday with reports of vandalism at the Gifft Hill School. A school staff member reported that during the previous night, someone had smashed through the gates to the soccer field, knocked down the soccer nets, and destroyed the field’s surface by driving around in circles.
The field is used after school hours by community members playing soccer, ultimate Frisbee, and baseball. The vandalism seemed particularly painful because only hours earlier, the school had celebrated 40 years of success at its annual gala fundraising auction.
A Go Fund Me account was established by Sunday evening to raise $10,000 to repair the field. More than $1,000 had been pledged by midnight.