Slain Detective Delberth Phipps Jr. Laid to Rest with Honors

Hundreds of first responders and members of law enforcement from the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands gathered to bid a slain St. Thomas policeman farewell on Saturday. Before the remains of Detective Delberth Phipps Jr. were laid to rest, top government officials awarded him the Medal of Honor.

Detective Delberth Phipps’ final viewing (Photo by Judi Shimel)

Those who gathered for the funeral service at the Elridge Blake Sports and Fitness Center witnessed the tribute. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Police Commissioner Ray Martinez presented the Federal Law Enforcer’s Medal of Honor to the Phipps’ father and son.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach, and Police Commissioner Ray Martinez presented the Federal Law Enforcer’s Medal of Honor to Detective Delberth Phipps’ father and son. (Photo by Government House)

Delberth Phipps Jr. followed his father, Delberth Phipps Sr., onto the Virgin Islands Police Department. He also worked homicide cases as part of his work with the Major Crimes division, as his father did. 

Phipps Jr. died from a single gunshot wound while confronting an armed suspect in the Hospital Ground area on July 4. Richardson Dangelben Jr. is now in federal custody, charged with first-degree murder of a police officer.

Martinez called Phipps Jr. a dedicated officer who frequently sought his advice on how to handle investigations. “Did you run it by the old man?” the commissioner said he would ask the detective he called Young Ninja.

The younger Phipps would smile, he said, then tell his commissioner he had to ask for things or advice his father could not help him with.

Bryan extended condolences to the Phipps family and to the wider Virgin Islands Police Department family. He spoke to Phipps Sr., as one father to another.

“Each one of us wants to live a life so that when this time comes we call this a celebration of life. But today is not a celebration. Today is a mourning, and it’s a mourning because this is one of us who is gone too soon,” Bryan said.

Singer Sidney Bell pays tribute to Detective Delberth Phipps Jr. at the Sports and Fitness Center. (Photo by J. Shimel)

Others, like Sen. Kenneth Gittens, walked through the rows of mourners, shaking hands with retired police officials.

Gittens, a former member of the VIPD top brass, called Saturday’s funeral a family gathering — the detective’s family, the department family, and the first-responder family they all belong to. “And that really hit me when I was saying hello to these folks here; this back row,” the senator said.

Former Police Commissioner and current Senate President Novelle Francis praised the two generations of service given to the police department by the Phipps family.

“During my years with the Virgin Islands Police Department, I was honored to work with Detective Phipps. I knew of his pride when his son — Del Junior — became a second-generation police officer. Del rose to the challenge, honoring his father’s footsteps. He took pride in his work and will be remembered for his dedication, professional standards, and strong work ethic,” Francis said.

Officials addressing the crowd also acknowledged and welcomed the law enforcement escort from the U.S. mainland for the Honor Flag given to the family. Chris Heisler, president and founder of the Honor Network, asked all first responders attending the service to stand and applaud the detective’s family.

The sports and fitness center erupted in cheers. In the years after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Texas House of Representatives recognized Heisler for organizing a police motorcycle convoy to honor fallen New York City first responders.

On July 27, Heisler and other stateside police officials brought the U.S. Honor Flag to St. Thomas to recognize the sacrifice of life that took place on July 4.

Motorcyclists line Main Street on St. Thomas to honor slain detective Delberth Phipps Jr. (Photo by J. Shimel)

Motorcyclists from St. Thomas and St. John accompanied the hearse carrying Phipps Jr. to his resting place at the Western Cemetery after the service ended. They were led by Bryan, Francis, Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach, and leaders of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.  

Royal V.I. Police Force (Photo by J. Shimel)

His VIPD family, in blue dress uniforms, marched in formation ahead of the hearse down Main Street in Charlotte Amalie.