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HomeNewsArchivesAfter Manhunt, St. Croix Native Killed in Shootout with Florida Police

After Manhunt, St. Croix Native Killed in Shootout with Florida Police

Sept. 14, 2007 — St. Croix native Shawn Sherwin Labeet was killed in a shootout with a police SWAT team late Thursday in Pembroke Pines, Fla., after he allegedly killed one police officer and wounded three others.
The V.I. Police Department cooperated with police in Florida’s Miami-Dade county to find the 25-year-old Labeet as part of a massive manhunt that began just before 5 p.m. Thursday and unfolded on live television.
Police said that Labeet opened fire on the four officers with an AK-47 rifle Thursday afternoon. The weapon was recovered, but police believed that Labeet was still armed with other weapons.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez identified the dead officer as 37-year-old Jose Somohano, MSNBC reported early Friday.
Locally, V.I. Police Commissioner James McCall released a wanted poster of Labeet and said that the VIPD was working with Miami-Dade police to help apprehend Labeet and bring him to justice.
The shooting by Labeet comes 35 years and seven days to the day that his half-brother, Ishmael, gained notoriety in what became known as the Fountain Valley Massacre, on Sept. 6, 1972. Shawn Labeet was not yet born when his older brother and four others killed eight people at the popular golf course, which has since been renamed.
For years thereafter, the massacre cast blight on St. Croix’s image as vacation destination. The island was slowly rebounding and residents who watched the news unfold on television Thursday were expressing fears that what occurred in Miami could put the island back in an unwanted spotlight again.
Julio Brady, now a Superior Court Judge and a former Attorney General, prosecuted the case with a federal colleague. All were found guilty and imprisoned but 13 years later on Dec. 31, 1985, Labeet overpowered guards from the V.I. Corrections Bureau who were escorting him on flight from St. Croix to New York. He forced the American Airlines flight, which had 198 passengers on board, to land in Cuba where he is still believed to be residing as a fugitive. None of those passengers were hurt and the flight did make it to New York.
Ironically, four of the tourists who were murdered in 1972 by Labeet, were from Miami, according to a report from the Miami Herald, which interviewed a member of the Labeet family residing on St. Thomas.
Keith Labeet told the Miami-Herald Thursday that he was in total shock to see the news unfold about his half-brother. He also confirmed that Ishmael Labeet is their half-brother.
“This thing is all over the news and I don’t know what’s going on,” Keith Labeet said. “I’m watching the news right now and this looks crazy.” He said he had only met his half-brother twice.
Shawn Labeet’s photo was shown repeatedly on CNN stations Thursday afternoon during breaking news segments, and one Virgin Islands woman who saw the story unfold live on TV said that she too was stunned.
“I was shocked when they identified Shawn Labeet — a young boy who grew up near me,” she said. The woman, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that Shawn Labeet is related to Ishmael Labeet.
Calls to the Miami home where Shawn Labeet is said to have resided went unanswered Thursday night. An outgoing message on the answering machine said it could no longer take messages.
According to police reports, Shawn Labeet shot at the four officers during a standoff at a southwest Miami-Dade apartment complex, A white Honda Accord with a black hood, believed to be Labeet’s, was found abandoned. The car, with a cracked windshield, presumably from bullets, was also shown on television. It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday evening whether the officers had returned fired after Labeet opened fire.
As word spread of the shooting, schools in the southwest Miami-Dade area locked down and helicopters were shown on television joining the manhunt. However, there were no students at the schools because Thursday was a teacher work day.
Newspapers in the area had reported that police were looking for a man identified as Kevin Wehner then later identified Labeet as the lone suspect.
With reports from the Miami Herald and CNN News.
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