Police Commissioner Henry White and Gov. John deJongh Jr. praised police officers Friday who foiled a home invasion on St. Croix early Friday morning, and called to mind the bravery of the six police officers shot in the line of duty this year.
Two suspects in a home-invasion robbery in Beeston Hill were shot and killed after firing on police when ordered to drop their weapons around 2:30 a.m. Friday. Police have not yet released the names of the deceased.
Officer Theodore Willocks of the Juvenile Bureau was shot during the firefight and is being treated at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital.
One male minor was arrested and at least four weapons were recovered, according to police.
White praised Willocks and all the officers who responded to the Friday morning home invasion, saying police have "held their ground" in confronting dangerous armed criminals.
"They have challenged the wanton criminals who seek to render our community unsafe. Some of these confrontations have unfortunately ended deadly, with the suspects being fatally wounded and our police officers also being injured. I commend our officers for standing firm, many times in harm’s way, to take on these criminals head-on," White said.
And police have borne serious costs for their bravery. Just this year, six police officers have been seriously wounded in the course of duty in recent months and one officer has been killed, White said.
In May, St. Thomas police officers Colvin Georges and Aaron Hodge were shot pursuing an armed suspect. Georges subsequently passed away and Hodge continues to recover. Not long after, Officer Elsworth Jones and St. Croix Police Chief Chris Howell were shot while pursuing suspects in an armed robbery. Jones was hit by shrapnel in his face, cheek, eye and throat, White said.
"After several surgeries, Officer Jones has a titanium plate in his cheek and doctors say some shrapnel cannot be removed for fear of further complications," he said.
Howell has had more than half a dozen surgeries and continues his rehabilitation, he said. Then, last week, St. Croix Police Officer Amalee Lockhart was shot while pursuing a suspect in an armed robbery. Lockhart has had two surgeries so far and will need much more medical treatment, White said.
Willocks, the sixth officer injured in the line of duty this year, "was shot twice while confronting suspects," in Friday’s home invasion, White said.
"Today’s incident was the most lethal with two suspects being shot and killed by police and an officer being injured by gunfire," he said. A third person, a male minor who was arrested, "was also injured in the exchange of gunfire," White said.
While police cannot be on every street corner at all times, "we will continue to challenge the criminal element without hesitation and without fear of the consequences. A civilized society cannot survive without law and order and that is what our officers provide each and every day," White said, encouraging residents to help by contacting the police or Crime Stoppers with any information about any crime.
"The simplest piece of information may be what is missing to bring another criminal to justice," White concluded.
DeJongh was effusive with his praise of the officers and pledged his administration would "provide whatever resources are necessary" to help police find and arrest violent criminals.
"I cannot say enough about the efforts of those officers who responded to last night’s home invasion and in responding took down two armed suspects and later apprehended a third while recovering numerous weapons and stolen property from the crime scene," deJongh said in a statement Friday afternoon.