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INSIDE JOB: Teenage Gunmen Knew From Restaurant Employee That McDonald’s Safe Contained At Least $3,000

GOT MARRIED NOVEMBER 19: Joseph Recio Feliz

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Three teenagers — all Charlotte Amalie High School students — have been accused in the armed holdup of the McDonald’s restaurant in Sugar Estate in which one customer was taken hostage late on Saturday night.

In a hastily-called press conference on Monday afternoon, St. Thomas Police Chief Jason Marsh identified 17-year-old Juan De Dios as the gunman wielding a shotgun during the robbery who was able to fire off at least one shot inside the restaurant, but died immediately thereafter in a hail of gunfire by authorities.

A 16-year-old boy who carried a handgun during the robbery has been charged with murder after one of his accomplices — De Dios — died during the incident. De Dios was a boxing prospect and three weeks away from his eighteenth birthday, according to social media. The boy cannot be identified because he is a minor.

While 18-year-old Joseph Recio Feliz allegedly held a handgun to the neck of a customer, the teenagers demanded that McDonald’s employees open a restaurant safe that they knew contained at least $3,000.00, Marsh said. Customers in the restaurant during the 30 to 40-minute robbery said that they felt terrorized during the ordeal.

Superior Court Judge Renee Gumbs-Carty refused to bind over Feliz on a charges of first-degree murder and second-degree murder, saying a police detective testified that he could not say conclusively whether De Dios died from a fusillade of bullets from authorities — or from the blast of his own shotgun.

But Feliz is being held on felony charges of robbery, grand larceny, possession of an unlicensed firearm during the commission of a crime, third-degree assault and the misdemeanor of brandishing a weapon.

Feliz and the boy were each advised of their rights in court on Monday, according to police. Feliz is being held on $200,000 bond, without the possibility of being able to pay 10 percent to go free, freshman judge Gumbs-Carty said.

Marsh told the judge that the forensics will show that De Dios did not kill himself during the armed robbery attempt, but acknowledged that evidence picture will be more complete after an autopsy is performed on the teenager’s body.

The St. Thomas police chief, like Police Commissioner Delroy Richards Sr. did on Sunday, saw similarities between the McDonald’s robbery and the armed robbery of the Pony Parlor that took place late on Wednesday night in Frenchtown.

Marsh would not say definitively whether any of the three teenagers are linked to the shotgun killing of 48-year-old Don Richards in Anna’s Retreat in February, but added that a ballistics examination of the shotgun used during the robbery has not been completed.

A source close to the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Virgin Islands Free Press that the would-be robbers had “inside information” about what day of the week usually took in the most cash at the restaurant.

If the “inside job” information is confirmed by the ongoing police investigation, the McDonald’s employee(s) could face conspiracy and other related felony charges for their role in the armed robbery, the source said.

Police said the possibility exists that the two surviving accused gunmen could face kidnapping charges for their roles in the armed robbery attempt.

During the press conference, the minor and Felix were described as being players on the CAHS basketball team.

VAYA CON DIOS: But Juan De Dios of St. Thomas was a top boxing prospect prior to dying in a hail of bullets holding a shotgun in his hands. The name Juan De Dios means: “John of God” in Spanish.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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