One year after 18-year-old Michael Freeman was killed in the culmination of a police chase initiated when Freeman and five other burglary suspects fled V.I. Police Department officers, the teenager’s family still has no answers to questions surrounding the death, including whether the fatal shot was fired by police.
Freeman was shot and killed on Thursday afternoon, January 4, 2007, during a shootout with police. Freeman and five other individuals were spotted in a suspicious SUV believed to have been involved in a string of burglaries in the Fish Bay area, and when police attempted to pull the vehicle over, the suspects fled.
Reports indicated that when the vehicle did pull over on Centerline Road in the vicinity of Centerline Concrete, the driver and another occupant of the vehicle opened fire. Police returned fire on the vehicle. When the dust had settled, Freeman was dead, three suspects were arrested — two of whom were minors and were later released without incident — and two had fled and remain at large.
VIPD spokesperson Melody Rames last week referred questions regarding ballistics tests on the bullet that killed Freeman to the V.I. Attorney General’s office.
The AG’s office was unable to provide information regarding Freeman’s case as of press time. The VIPD has not claimed responsibility for Freeman’s death pending ballistic testing.
Family in the Dark
Freeman’s family is as much in the dark as the public, according to the teenager’s mother, St. Thomas resident Cleopha Bryan.
“The detective informed us he couldn’t give us any answers because the case is still under investigation,” said Bryan. “I’d call back, and he would tell me it’s still under investigation. I still have not heard from the VIPD and it’s been a year now since he was murdered; I’m not even going to try anymore.”
Bryan was upset to find stories on her son’s death in local media the day after the police chase, before she had received any official information from the police, she continued.
“I spoke with several people who were there that night and tried to piece together what happened,” she said. “I wasn’t contacted by the VIPD until the next day. It was already in the news, and I felt I shouldn’t have been notified the next day when the media already had the information out there.”
Prior Criminal Record
Bryan recalled receiving a phone call around 3 p.m. on January 4 from someone asking her where her son was. She assumed he was where he usually spent time when he was not working — at home.
Bryan said she then received another call informing her that her son may be dead. The distraught mother tried to reach Freeman on his cell phone with no luck.
“I got another call asking me if he had any identifying marks on his body, and maybe half an hour later it was confirmed that he was dead,” said Bryan. “I started trying to find out what happened, and I was given a scenario that didn’t make sense. They said he was in a gunfight with the police and he tried to run them over with a car, and it didn’t make sense but I listened because at that point I was crying, frustrated and trying to find out what happened.”
Freeman did have a criminal record at the age of 16, however when he turned 18 his record was expunged and he’d been improving his life by working and helping his mother around the house. Bryan still questions her son’s involvement in the rash of break-ins in Fish Bay in the days before the police chase.
“Up to the day before he died, he was here helping me do things around the house,” said Bryan. “It’s impossible for him to be helping me here and be in another location. They said this robbery spree was going on in the days prior.”
While Bryan is unsure how Freeman ended up on St. John, it was not strange for him to be on the island where he has family, she explained. What Bryan can not explain is what exactly happened during the hours leading up to her son’s death.
“Wrong Place, Wrong Time”
“He’s not here to tell me what happened and the people in the vehicle can’t tell me what happened because they let go the one person they arrested,” she said. “It’s a cover up plain and simple. But I’m not going to lose sanity over it.”
Although she admits her son’s actions may have been wrong, it’s still hard to cope with the fact she may never get the answers she’s seeking to what happened on January 4, 2007.
“Even if he was wrong, at the end of the day, he’s a mother’s child; he is my child,” said Bryan. “No one deserves to die the way he did. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.”
“It’s going to be hard for the rest of my life,” Bryan continued. “He was my first child, and no one can give me that back.”
Believing in karma is what keeps Bryan moving and able to take care of her two-year-old child.
“It’s very, very hard, but I always say no unjust deed goes unpunished,” said Bryan.
Twenty-four-year-old Dominica native and St. Thomas resident Obrian Pacquette, the only suspect arrested in the incident, has been released from jail and is still awaiting trial on charges of simple possession of an unlicensed firearm. Prosecuting attorney Samantha Matheren is unsure whether Pacquette, who was under an immigration hold, has been detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.