KINGSHILL — Officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department joined by federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs & Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Marshals Service, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force executed search and arrest warrants at Aureo Diaz Heights today.
Members of VIPD Special Operations Bureau from the St. Thomas – St. John District, along with specialized teams from HSI and the DEA traveled to St. Croix for the early morning operation.
The warrants were issued by the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands for the arrests of Gilberto Rivera, Jr., 30, Luis A. Rivera, 36, and Jameel Williams, 27, all of the Aureo Diaz Heights housing community. The three men were charged with 1st Degree Murder in the shooting deaths of 33-year-old Michael Ramos and 38-year old Juan Velasquez on April 19 in Aureo Diaz Heights.
Police have provided few details about the ongoing investigation, but said in a press conference they believe the incident began as an argument between neighbors.
Bail for the three men were set at $1,000,000 each. Unable to post bail, the men were turned over to the custody of the Bureau of Corrections, pending their Advice of Rights hearings.
Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. commended law enforcement on the operation and the arrests.
“Our community is safer tonight thanks to the continued efforts of our VIPD to take violent offenders off our streets,” Governor Bryan said. I want to congratulate Commissioner Velinor for his leadership and thank our federal law enforcement partners for their support on this and other operations.”
Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor stated, “We are serious about fighting crime in our community. The men and women of the Virgin Islands Police Department worked diligently on this investigation, led by the Commander of the Criminal Investigation Bureau Lieutenant Naomi Joseph. Our detectives worked painstakingly on this investigation which has resulted in the arrest of three individuals.” Velinor further stated, “officers will not retreat or surrender our community” to violent offenders.
St. Croix District Chief of Police Sidney Elskoe commended officers, federal agents, and military personnel who participated in the operation. “The VIPD is committed to ridding our streets of those who victimize us with violence. We will continue to address such matters with all resources at our disposal. Federal law enforcement entities have pledged their support and have advised us they are only a phone call away,” Chief Elskoe said.
Detectives continue to urge everyone who has information on crimes to call 911, the Crime Tip Line at (340) 778-4950, or Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-TIPS. Remember, if you see something, say something.
All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this report are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.