CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Three Hispanic men stormed into the McDonald’s in Sugar Estate at closing intent on robbery, one of them with a shotgun, but were immediately surrounded by authorities — and after a gunman fired one blast from his shotgun while customers were still inside the restaurant.
Police said the incident occurred about 11 p.m. on Saturday — the exact time that the McDonald’s near Lockhart Gardens closes — but the gunman was only killed after first being told by authorities to put down his gun — which he did not because he fired off at least one shotgun blast before being taken out, authorities acknowledged after the 30 to 40-minute-long ordeal that left store patrons visibly shaken. No civilians were injured in the shootings by authorities or the gunman.
“Unfortunately, when you become bold enough to become involved in criminal actions like that, you have to be prepared to suffer the consequences,” Police Commissioner Delroy Richards Sr. said. “My guys responded and they did what they were trained to do as professionals.”
Richards said a timely VIPD response aborted the armed robbery and the feeling that restaurant patrons were being held hostage by the gunman at the McDonald’s near the Lockhart Gardens Shopping Center. One of the would-be robbers — a minor — was apparently shot by pellets from his fellow accomplice, the commissioner said.
The official VIPD press release credits “other law enforcement officers” assisting during the robbery in progress.
“I would like to thank the community for having the courage to make the calls when they see something,” St. Thomas Police Chief Jason Marsh said. “I would also like to thank the officers of this police department for bringing this incident to a close without injury to any of the hostages in the business.”
In the statement released late Sunday afternoon, police said that the one suspect who was wounded remains at the Schneider Regional Medical Center were he is receiving treatment. The suspect who was uninjured is a minor and was taken into custody.
The armed robbery/hostage-taking incident was the latest in a series of late night armed robberies affecting St. Thomas, with Hispanic men being identified by witnesses as suspects, according to Richards.
On Wednesday, the Pony Parlor in Frenchtown was robbed at gunpoint about 10:12 p.m. with three gunmen leaving with an unknown amount of cash.
“Those three individuals that entered were described as Hispanic males,” Richards said. “The suspects for the McDonald’s robbery were carrying similar weapons that were described by the folks at the Pony Parlor, and they were also described as Hispanics, so there are some similarities.”
Since the two surviving suspects were in police custody and a third one dead, Richards said their names will be revealed to the public in a forthcoming VIPD press release — but once the release was finally issued about 3:20 p.m. on Sunday — no names were contained in it.
The name of the suspect who is a minor would not be revealed in accordance with local law.
Meanwhile, the McDonald’s in Sugar Estate where the incident took place will remain closed as long as police have it cordoned off to complete their investigation into the crime, as it was on Sunday, according to a statement from Arcos Dorados Holdings, the franchise owner of McDonald’s U.S. Virgin Islands.
As has been the custom under Richards, police expressed condolences to the family of the person authorities shot to death during the incident.
Marsh said that “we have to continue to work together to prevent the selective few from holding our community hostage and making us afraid to shop at our businesses and walk in the streets.”
“We will continue to vigorously confront the criminal elements,” he said.
If you see a crime happening in the territory, please call the VIPD at (340) 774-2211 on St. Thomas, (340) 778-2211 on St. Croix or the anonymous tipline Crimestoppers VI 1-800-222-TIPS or 911.