Name And Face Given To ‘Jane Doe’ Who Was Arrested For Littering In June: VIPD
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A homeless woman who was arrested last month and charged with littering in downtown St. Thomas has finally been identified by name and photo, authorities said.
Lisa Bergren, of no fixed address, was arrested June 15 on littering and resisting arrest charges, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.
Bergren has been a fixture on the streets around downtown Charlotte Amalie and is apparently suffering from a mental illness.
Meanwhile, family members on the U.S. mainland said they are worried about her current state, and wondered how they could help her get treatment.
It’s unclear how or when exactly Bergren made her way to St. Thomas, but she became one of many people living rough on the waterfront, bundled in heavy clothing with her signature shopping cart and bucket hat.
Police said she did not follow instructions after one officer told her to put the garbage that had fallen out of her shopping cart into a trash receptacle.
Bergren became agitated and began screaming. After a brief foot chase, police took her into custody.
She was not in possession of any personal identification documents and refused to cooperate with police. Officers said they could not identify her and charged her as a “Jane Doe” with obscene and indecent conduct, disturbance of the peace, littering and delaying and obstruction.
She was jailed and appeared in court on June 16, when she displayed erratic, delusional behavior and asserted that she was a Chinese diplomat who required a translator.
Bergren is Caucasian and spoke in unaccented English. Given her inability to understand or participate in the proceedings, Magistrate Judge Carolyn Hermon-Percell ordered her to undergo a mental health evaluation before returning to court to be advised of her rights.
The Daily News reported the arrest, and Pastor Rev. Jeffrey Neevel of the St. Thomas Reformed Church recognized a description of Bergren from his work with her and other vulnerable people living on the streets of Charlotte Amalie.
Neevel provided a reporter with contact information for one of Bergren’s sisters, who had been working with other family members to try and persuade Bergren to return to the mainland for treatment.
Her family contacted the public defender’s office after learning of her arrest. Bergren appeared in court again, where her family told the judge they care for her deeply, and are desperate to bring her home as soon as possible.
Bergren’s physical appearance had improved since her previous hearing, and she spoke in a clear, coherent voice. But she still struggled to fully grasp the proceedings, and slipped at times into a strange accent when agitated.
When asked to identify herself, she looked at a piece of paper in her hand before responding, “it has me as Lisa Bergren.”
A sister and niece who appeared in court formally confirmed her identity, and said her family is working to arrange inpatient mental health treatment for Bergren on the mainland.
“Now we have a name for the face,” Hermon-Percell said.
The Virgin Islands does not have a secure mental health facility, and individuals like Bergren are forced to either sit in jail without treatment, or shipped off-island to private facilities in Puerto Rico or the mainland at the government’s expense.
Some are simply released back into the community despite recommendations that they receive mental health treatment, because they are not competent to stand trial but cannot remain in jail forever.
Territorial Public Defender Alexia Furlow asked that Bergren be released from jail on an unsecured bond as soon as one of sisters can travel to the territory to pick her up.
Hermon-Percell agreed, and said she would order the Bureau of Corrections to transport Bergren to the airport as soon as her family confirmed travel arrangements, which could be within days.
Once she is in treatment, her criminal charges could be dismissed, and typically “once a family has stepped in, the People step back,” the judge said.
Assistant Virgin Islands Attorney General Brenda Scales said the proposed conditions would be “more than sufficient” to satisfy prosecutors that she would not pose a danger to herself or others, and “we like to see people get treatment.”
“I really appreciate family members coming forward because that’s usually not the case in these types of matters, I can tell you,” Hermon-Percell said.
“We love her, we love Lisa. We want her to come back,” her sister said.
“I thank the family for being here, for appearing at this hearing,” the judge said. “Usually there’s no one there.”
Bergren had been a fixture for months on the streets around the St. Thomas waterfront and Crown Bay was arrested in June after a dispute with an officer, but police have been unable to figure out who she is.
At the time, she was not in possession of any identification documents, and she has refused to tell officers her name or other information — and she claimed to be Chinese and asked for a Chinese interpreter.
With no way to identify Bergren then, police charged the woman as an anonymous “Jane Doe.”
It’s unclear whether police have obtained her fingerprints, and the arresting officer said in an affidavit filed in Superior Court that police were not able to process her before turning her over to the Bureau of Corrections.
Short and stout, the woman is Caucasian and appears to be in her 50s or 60s, with shaggy light brown hair that’s starting to gray. It’s unclear when she arrived on St. Thomas and how long she’s been living on the streets, but she is frequently seen in public areas along the waterfront bundled in layers of clothing and pushing a loaded shopping cart. When she answered the judge’s questions, she spoke with a neutral, mainland American accent.
As of Daily News press time, V.I. Police had not released the woman’s mugshot.
She was arrested at around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday after an officer patrolling Veterans Drive in the area of Burger Maxx, saw “a Caucasian female removing trash from a shopping cart in her possession and feeding the stray chickens.”
“I approached her and asked her to collect the trash and place it in a bin,” the officer said, according to the affidavit filed by police.
The woman refused to pick up the trash, called the officer an obscene racial slur, according to police.
The woman became increasingly agitated and continued screaming obscenities and claiming “I am from China,” and the officer called for backup as adults and children passing by covered their ears and rushed past to avoid a confrontation, according to the affidavit.
The woman fled as more police arrived, and officers took her into custody in front of the V.I. Lottery office and brought her to Schneider Hospital for an evaluation. She continued refusing to provide any information to medical staff “and refused to be treated,” so police brought her to jail, according to the affidavit.
Police charged her with four crimes — obscene and indecent conduct, disturbance of the peace, littering and delaying and obstruction.
At her advice-of-rights hearing Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Carolyn Hermon-Percell, the woman displayed symptoms of apparent mental illness and disordered thinking.
She gripped the collar of her red jail jumpsuit tightly throughout the hearing, and appeared confused and angered by the proceedings.
Territorial Public Defender Paula Norkaitis said she spoke with her client in English, but the woman requested a Chinese translator. When Norkaitis asked what dialect she spoke, the woman replied, “Chinese.”
“I’m unable to give you any identifying information right now about Miss Jane Doe,” Norkaitis said. “She indicated she is a Chinese diplomat. That was at the very end of the conversation. I’m not really sure your Honor, what interpreter she needs, if any.”
“She spoke to you in English, correct?” the judge asked, before questioning whether she needs to be evaluated by a medical professional. “I do believe an evaluation might be beneficial,” Norkaitis responded.
The woman appeared in court from jail via video conference, and at times jumped up and tore off her mask, gesturing and speaking excitedly.
Bureau of Corrections officials kept her microphone on mute during the outbursts, and had to frequently remind her to wear her mask and pay attention to the judge.
“I’m familiar from seeing this person in downtown Charlotte Amalie,” but “everything is unknown” about her, Hermon-Percell said.
If the Bureau is unable to provide mental health treatment, they must “then take her to Roy Schneider hospital, so she can be seen by a psychiatrist or a psychologist there, because I know the Bureau may not have anyone currently that can do this,” Hermon-Percell said.
The judge added that the woman’s “mental health is in question and she may need to be stabilized.”
“We’ll see what can happen in a week’s time,” she said.