Court Opinion Clears the Way for New Proceedings in St. Thomas Cop Killer Case

Accused cop killer Richardson Dangelben Jr. has been held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since July 17. (Photo courtesy of Federal Bureau of Prisons)

A recent order handed down by a federal judge over the murder of a St. Thomas police officer says the accused killer has no Constitutional right to gun possession.

Chief District Judge Robert Molloy issued an opinion Oct. 3 in the case of USA v. Richardson Dangelben Jr. The defendant is accused of fatally shooting police detective Delberth Phipps Jr. in July in Hospital Ground.

Dangelben was charged on July 7 with killing a police officer while in the performance of duty and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Federal Public Defender Matthew Campbell challenged the firearm charge, saying a recent Supreme Court ruling nullified the weapons charge.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice said the high court ruling only applied to law-abiding citizens and their legal possession of firearms. The Oct. 3 Memorandum and Opinion upheld arguments made by prosecutors.

“ … the Court agrees with the Government. Section 922(k) does not infringe on an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Section 922(k) merely prohibits a person from possessing a gun with an altered, removed, or obliterated serial number. The regulation does not modify or in any way affect the function, utility, or effectiveness of an individual’s firearm,” Molloy said.

“For the foregoing reasons, Defendant Richardson Dangleben’s motion to dismiss (sic) is denied.”

The judge’s order clears the way for further proceedings in the case. Dangleben made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller on July 17. Miller ordered his detention, pending further court action at that time.

Since then, the defendant has been held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico.

A date for arraignment has not been scheduled yet.