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HomeNewsLocal newsCarnival Shooter Licensed to Carry Firearm, Held on $1M Bail

Carnival Shooter Licensed to Carry Firearm, Held on $1M Bail

The man charged with gunning down 54-year-old Alrick Thomas after the St. Thomas Carnival Adults Parade Saturday night is being held on $1 million bail after his appearance at a hearing in Superior Court on Monday before Magistrate Simone Van Holten-Turnbull.

Dion Johnson, 21, was arrested by police a short distance away from the Lutheran Church and Emancipation Garden, where Thomas was found lying unresponsive on the ground. Thomas was pronounced dead by emergency medical service personnel at the scene.

During Monday’s hearing, Van Holten declared there was probable cause to uphold charges of first- and second-degree murder, along with related alleged offenses.

According to documents filed in court by members of the Virgin Islands Police Department Major Crimes Division, the incident took place around 8:30 p.m. Witnesses told investigators they heard between seven-to-eight gunshots in the area of Norre Gade, near the Lutheran Church, where Thomas was working with his crew to help clean up debris after the parade.

Detectives from the VIPD Major Crimes Bureau also said they were able to obtain a surveillance recording that captured the incident. 

None of the witnesses who gave statements to police on Saturday night said they saw evidence of any exchange between the alleged shooter and the victim prior to the shooting. Some said they saw the defendant holding an object covered with a cloth, pointed towards the victim. Others said they saw the weapon uncovered as Johnson allegedly stood over Thomas, who by then was lying on the ground.

Detectives said the defendant then fled the scene, with police in pursuit, and was captured near the intersection of Government Hill and Education Street. Officers from the VIPD Special Operations Bureau and detectives from the Major Crimes Bureau aided in Johnson’s apprehension.

A .40 Glock pistol was recovered at the time of the arrest, court documents said. When questioned at the Alexander Farrelly Justice Complex later that night, Johnson refused to answer questions, but court records say investigators found he was licensed to carry a firearm.

At Monday’s hearing the lawyer representing Johnson argued that his client had no prior criminal record and that $1 million bail was excessive. Van Holten rebuffed that statement.  

“The court is not comfortable reducing this bail. The bail remains set at $1 million,” the magistrate said. Van Holten also upheld charges of first- and second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, first- and third-degree assault; use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime, unlawful possession of ammunition, and first-degree reckless endangerment.

An arraignment hearing is scheduled for May 19 at 10 a.m.

In a statement Monday, Public Works Commissioner Derek Gabriel offered condolences to Thomas’ family, and described him as a “valued employee” of the department’s St. John Operations Division, where he has worked since October of 2016.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Alrick’s family and friends, especially his wife and children,” Gabriel said. “It is more than unfortunate that this incident occurred, more so while he was performing work duties. Public servants must feel safe, regardless of their duties and responsibilities, while carrying out their work on behalf of the people of the territory.”

DPW is providing counseling for the St. John team and will close the St. John office to allow time for healing. The St. John office will reopen on Wednesday.

“This senseless tragedy has reverberated through the department and the St. John community,” continued Gabriel. “Alrick was well-known and respected by everyone that worked with him. As we share fond remembrances, we will continue to lift his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Up until the time of the massive J’ouvert morning musical tramp on April 27, government officials were hailing Carnival 2023 as a jubilant and largely peaceful celebration. By Monday afternoon, a slightly different picture emerged; one that offered a glimpse at how much effort public safety personnel put in towards that end.

There was also a disclosure about two incidents that did result in violence in the vicinity of Carnival Village. Police spokesman Glen Dratte also credited concerned citizens for their vigilance and willingness to share information with authorities in keeping such incidents to a minimum

“The biggest thing that happened was that the community came forward. We did a lot of interception, we did a lot of intel work. We took a lot of guns off the streets during the Carnival,” Dratte said.

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