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Police Address St. Croix Murder, St. Thomas Shootout

March 16, 2009 — St. Croix saw its third murder of the year Monday morning with the apparent ambush killing of Steve Williams, a 33-year-old resident of Sion Farm.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta recounted what is known of what happened. About 7:26 a.m. police received a 911 call reporting shots fired in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant in the vicinity of Golden Rock Shopping Center. An officer saw a man running into the bushes with what appeared to be a firearm, Benda said. Another man was found lying dead near the restaurant with multiple gunshot wounds.
"Officers apprehended three males, whose names are being withheld pending further investigation," Benta said. Police recovered an AK-47 military semi-automatic, a shotgun and a 9 mm pistol, he said.
The killing was apparently an escalation of a long-standing personal dispute.
"A dispute over nonsense has resulted in the needless death of a person in our community yet again," Benta said.
To date this year, St. Croix has seen three murders, St. Thomas has had 12 and St. John has had one murder, Assistant Commissioner Novelle Francis said.
McCall, Francis and Benta all said police are getting more and more community cooperation, leading to more arrests, especially on St. Croix, and the department plans to keep pushing back and expanding the effort.
"If the community stands fast and fights," Benta said, "we will rid our community of the vermin who continue to plague us."
The St. Croix murder comes two days after a brazen daytime car chase and gunfight on St. Thomas, which resulted in two arrests. (See "Two In Custody After Shootout With Police.")
Police are still looking for more suspects in that case, and a wanted poster with photographs should be coming shortly, police said.
McCall asked St. Thomas residents to keep their eyes open and call police if anyone has any information. Someone may be helping the suspects hide, which is itself a crime, he said.
"If we determine you have been hiding them, you will be charged with being an accessory," he said.
Reacting to the shootout on St. Thomas, Gov. John deJongh Jr. issued a statement asking residents to keep coming forward with information, and praising the police for their actions under fire. He bemoaned the territory's tide of violent crime.
"It has become clear that there are those who have chosen to prey on our community with this reckless and senseless violence of late," he said. "This includes the insane attacks and retaliations of various criminal elements who claim to be defending their wrongdoing or protecting what they so wrongly view as their turf. There is no part of our Virgin Islands that will be given over to the criminal element to be called their turf. Not our housing communities or our neighborhoods, not our schools, not our streets."
DeJongh said progress is being made, particularly on St. Croix.
"New and aggressive tactics on St. Croix have led to greater success in targeting and bringing down certain criminals and criminal groups," he said. "We will soon begin to see similar results on St. Thomas. Our counterattack on crime will be swift and will continue."
If you have any information regarding the St. Thomas shooting incident or other crimes, the police ask you to call the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 715-5522 or 715-5514; the police chief's office at 715-5548; 911; or Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222-TIPS.
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