St. John Crimes Called “Connected”

An on-going investigation by U.S. and V.I. law enforcement officials has connected a recent series of incidents and allegations on St. John, according to V.I. Police Commissioner Elton Lewis.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency in the four related allegations and incidents which date back to June of this year, according to Commissioner Lewis.

The string of allegations and incidents began in early June when a couple reported they were targets of threatening racial graffiti at their East End home and their Cruz Bay retail store.

During the same month, the woman reported that she was assaulted by a neighboring business owner in the Meada’s Plaza commercial center. The couple closed their store in the St. Johnian-owned complex when the lease expired that month.

On August 30, a woman reported she was raped on the island’s East End. Two days later, a heated public meeting in Cruz Bay preceded three suspected arsons – including one fire which gutted the Cruz Bay business of the man accused in the June citizen’s arrest.

“All incidents are connected in one way or another,” said Commissioner Lewis.

On Monday, September 12, the Commissioner met with the V.I. Delegate to Congress, the V.I. Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney for the District of the V.I., agents in charge of the FBI for the V.I. and the U.S. Department of Justice to discuss the status of the investigation of reported hate crimes on St. John.

“As a result of that meeting, I can assure the community that substantial efforts have been made by federal and territorial officials and the six agents of the FBI, the certified fire inspectors from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explo-sives (ATF) and the V.I. Fire Department, and these investigators are conducting a vigorous and thorough investigation of the allegations,” said Lewis.

STX Press Conference
Commissioner Lewis conducted a press conference on St. Croix, Tuesday, September 13, to update the public on the investigation but offered little new information on the case.

“While the investigation is not yet complete, we have made substantial progress in the investigation of the allegations,” Com-missioner Lewis said.

The VIPD Commissioner indicated numerous interviews had been conducted.

Turned Over to Feds “Nevertheless, I can state that all evidence collected by the VIPD has been turned over to the FBI and to ATF,” said Com-missioner Lewis.

The investigation into these matters has been substantially completed and as soon as all of the evidence of the investigation is analyzed, a report from the FBI will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice, the commissioner added.

As evidenced by the involvement of the U.S. Department of Justice, these allegations are serious, according to Lewis.

“The community should have confidence that the VIPD, FBI, ATF, V.I. Territorial Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of the V.I. as well as the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Justice have devoted all the resources at their disposal to complete a full investigation of the allegations,” said Commissioner Lewis.

The conclusion of the FBI’s report will be reviewed by the V.I. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands, in conjunction with the FBI, he said.

“A decision will be made based on the results of the FBI investigation,” said Commissioner Lewis, who urged members of the community with any information pertinent to the investigation to call the FBI at 787-754-6000.

“As the Commissioner of the VIPD, I urge the public not to allow rumors and innuendos to divide this community,” said Lewis who took questions from reporters at the teleconference originating on St. Croix.

No New Incidents
While the VIPD Commissioner stated he could not respond to specific questions, he said no new incidents related to the investigation have been reported.

The recent fires at St. Johnian-owned Meada’s Plaza – which charred a Jeep belonging to longtime island business owner Robert Sells and gutted his retail store, Close Reach Imports, on two consecutive nights – are still under investigation as possible arson, and the results will be reported “relatively soon,” the VIPD Commissioner added.

The Cruz Bay business owner’s Jeep was burned in front of his retail store at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, September 1, and about one-half hour later, a lone arsonist attempted to start a fire inside Skinny Leg’s restaurant in Coral Bay but failed.

Sells’ store, Close Reach Imports, was set ablaze the following morning September 2 around the same time as the previous night’s fire.

Commissioner Lewis confirmed reports of a St. John march planned for October 1 by St. Croix and St. Thomas residents. “I have no information as to the nature of the march; all I know is that we received information that there would be a march on October 1 on St. John,” said Commissioner Lewis.

Commissioner Lewis said permits are required for marches in the territory.

Coral Bay Police Presence Upped
The recent allegations have prompted an increase in police presence on remote areas of the island, VIPD Commissioner added. “There have been increased patrols due to the alleged incidences,” said Commissioner Lewis. “Within weeks you will see permanent police presence, both vehicle and human resources, in the Coral Bay area.”

The VIPD Commissioner would not comment on questions regarding police manpower or a specific location of a temporary police headquarters while residents wait for the completion of a Coral Bay substation.

While no new information was disclosed, the VIPD commissioner assured the public that further information regarding the ongoing investigation would be forthcoming.

“I am giving all the information that is privy to us, and once we have the additional information we will provide that information to the public,” said Lewis. “This is a very sensitive investigation and I told the people of the territory I would keep them updated on the matter.”