Oct. 31, 2008 — Four individuals were arrested for arson and one police officer suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound in an incident Friday morning in Catherine's Rest on St. Croix.
"About 9 a.m. police responded to an arson call in Catherine's Rest." Assistant Police Commissioner Novelle Francis said at a press conference in Hannah's Rest Friday afternoon. "Events led to a situation where four individuals were arrested and one officer, Rafael Irizarry, sustained a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound. He lost a lot of blood, but he is in stable condition." Francis said. "We knew this morning it would be a hectic day, being it's Halloween."
Acting Police Chief Oakland Benta gave a blow-by-blow account of the morning's events.
"Officers responded to a residence in Catherine's Rest that was engulfed in fire,"
he said. "Individuals were running away and officers gave chase.
"They found one individual had a firearm which he tried to relieve himself of. Three others hid in the bush area."
K-9, DEA and Special Operations Bureau personnel also responded to the scene and were involved with the capture of the suspects, he said.
Arrested were Flavel Magras, 18, Luis Magras, 24, Elton Stanley III, 23, and Craig Durant. Flavel and Luis Magras are brothers. Stanley was also arrested on an Aug. 7 warrant for possession of an unlicensed firearm. All four suspects were charged with first degree arson and first degree burglary, Benta said.
"The four males (allegedly) went to the home and lit a fire, while a female individual was present in the house along with her baby," Benta said. She "was able to escape the house with her baby and go to a neighbor for shelter."
The actions of private citizens were crucial to making these arrests.
"Citizens called 911 and gave us detailed descriptions," Benta said. "We want to commend them, because if they had not called right away, we would not have been able to respond on a timely basis, getting there and seeing the suspects running away. So we give our thanks to the community."
The injured officer's weapon discharged accidentally.
"While engaged in apprehension of the suspect, while attempting to handcuff him, the firearm went off accidentally," he said. "With the anxiety and adrenaline, the rush and running, trying to secure the prisoner without harming him, a self-inflicted injury occurred."
The arson attack apparently arose out of an ongoing feud among students.
"There was an ongoing situation at school, (St. Croix) Central (High) I think. These four adults had an altercation with students, there was an incident at the school, they left the school and came back to the residential area where they live. It was a feud between individuals in the neighborhood." The house that was set ablaze was the residence of one of the children involved in the feud, he said.
The dispute had been going on for some time, and a conference had recently been held in the office of the Attorney General with the parents of all the students involved to try to defuse tensions, he said.
"Unfortunately it didnt end there," he said.
Police Commissioner James McCall spoke by telephone.
"I've been in contact with (Gov. John deJongh Jr.) and we all are wishing for a speedy recovery for officer Irizzary," he said. "The level of violence displayed by some of our young males is terrible."
Police are planning a youth summit in both districts to try to get at the root causes of the rising tide of youth violence, he said. "You'll be hearing from the governor real soon on this."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.