Surrounded by family and friends, the father of a man killed by police while executing a search warrant before dawn Jan. 5, asked the federal government to take over the investigation, saying he did not trust the V.I. Police Department to investigate itself.
"I am asking the FBI to take over the investigations. There is no body of government here this family can trust," Kendall "Seigo" Petersen, father of victim Kendall Petersen Jr. said to the angry crowd gathered in front of the senior Petersen’s house in Frederiksted. Flanked by attorney Martial Webster, Kendall Petersen suggested to the press and public that the police may be culpable for killing his son.
Both Webster and Kendall Petersen suggested the police may have botched the search, leading to an avoidable and tragic death. Several people in the crowd shouted out that the killing was a murder, and possibly a planned execution. Kendall Petersen suggested at different times, the killing may have been part of a vendetta against him, the result of an overly aggressive individual officer, the result of a badly planned and improperly carried out search, or some combination thereof.
"The truth is, he was in bed asleep with his wife when they burst into his home and killed my son," the elder Petersen said.
Webster said he interviewed several of the people who had their homes searched, and, according to Webster, they all said police burst into their homes without knocking or announcing who they were – which he said was a violation of federal law.
"Everyone we spoke to said police came into their homes in the middle of the night, wearing masks and without knocking or announcing their presence or purpose," he said.
While there are exceptions when police may enter without announcing first, the exception must be justified in the request for the warrant and must be specified on the warrant itself, but the warrants made no mention of not requiring a knock, Webster said.
Kendall Petersen Webster took issue with several aspects of the police department’s public statement on the incident. According to police, the search was initiated around 6:30 a.m. as part of a murder investigation. The deceased was seen with a firearm, ran around a corner and came back, and was shot after refusing to obey police commands to stop. A semi-automatic hand gun was recovered from the rear of the building, but the police report does not assert the deceased was armed at the time he was shot. About three pounds of marijuana and a "large amount of cash" was also taken from the home by police.
According to Kendall Petersen, the searches occurred considerably earlier, closer to 5 a.m. The gun was found in a neighboring yard, not in his son’s yard, he said, later leading media to the scene and pointing around the corner of the back of the house where he said the weapon was found.
There was no "large sum of cash," Webster said. "It wasn’t a substantial amount of money, it was like $6,000, to pay rent and bills," he said right before speaking to the crowd.
Kendall Petersen later said his son’s wife had been saving up to buy a car. Regarding the three pounds of marijuana, he said it was for his son’s personal use.
"My son is a born Rastafarian and it is his right to smoke marijuana," he said. Webster took a different tack, asking "is it worth breaking down a door in the middle of the night with guns drawn where you and your wife are sleeping for three pounds of marijuana?"
Petersen said he would be filing suit against the V.I. Police Department.
According to the V.I. Police Department, Police Internal Affairs agents have launched a Use of Force Investigation into this shooting, in addition to the investigation conducted by the Investigation Bureau. The officer involved has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending further investigation into the shooting.