CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A project man under arrest and in handcuffs took advantage of cops not paying attention to steal a police car and take it for a joyride to the St. Thomas airport, authorities said.
Rashawn Brooks, 42, of Oswald Harris Court, was arrested at 6:35 p.m. Monday and charged with with unauthorized use of a vehicle and reckless endangerment, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.”
“Brooks – detained by officers while investigating another matter and while handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser at the Bassanio G. David, Sr. Command – managed to climb into the front seat and took control of the vehicle. Brooks, traveling east on Julian Jackson Drive, was quickly apprehended near the King Airport stoplights and placed under arrest,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said.
The brief, ill-fated, 30-minute escape attempt resulted in officers charging Brooks with additional crimes on top of the assault he was initially arrested for.
The incident occurred at around 6:00 p.m. Monday, when officers called for backup on an assault investigation at Brewers Bay beach.
Officer Chuck Williams responded and located the suspect, later identified as Brooks, and took him into custody, according to the probable cause affidavit Williams filed.
He drove Brooks to the nearby Bassanio G. Davis Sr. Command, where Williams got out and stood talking to other officers with Brooks still in the back seat.
“While the defendant was in the back seat of my police cruiser he managed to move his hands from his back to his front while still handcuffed,” Williams wrote. “Investigation further revealed that the defendant managed to gain entry into the front of my police cruiser from the back where he was seated by coming through the opening in the middle of the case of same that separates the front from the rear.”
Still handcuffed, Brooks gripped the wheel and sped off.
While he was talking to three other officers, “I saw the defendant in the front seat of my police cruiser with his two hands still handcuffed driving the vehicle taking off at a high rate of speed traveling eastbound on Julian Jackson Drive,” Williams wrote.
Police pursued the vehicle and took Brooks into custody again when he stopped a short distance later near a laundromat.
In addition to simple assault, police charged Brooks with unauthorized use of a vehicle, reckless endangerment, escape from custody, and interfering with an officer. Unable to post $25,000, Brooks was jailed until his advice-of-rights hearing Wednesday.
In court, Assistant Virgin Islands Attorney General John Barraco questioned Williams about the incident, to provide additional details not contained in the affidavit.
Williams said police initially responded to a report that Brooks had assaulted another man with a glass Hennessy bottle.
Through his public defender Frederick Johnson, Brooks disputed that, saying it was actually a plastic mayonnaise jar he’d grabbed from a food truck.
Williams also said that after Brooks got behind the wheel of the cruiser, “he took off at a high rate of speed,” and “I observed him trying to get control of the steering wheel with the handcuffs still on in front of him.”
Barraco said Brooks has a significant criminal history that includes aggravated assault on a peace officer and an outstanding warrant in Florida, which may be related.
Johnson said Brooks was born and raised on St. Thomas, and spent 20 years on the mainland before returning in 2019.
Magistrate Judge Henry Carr III said his behavior “speaks loudly of disrespect for law enforcement officers.”
But he agreed not to impose a high monetary bail after Johnson argued strenuously that the local bail system needs reform.
Johnson noted that “down here in the Virgin Islands, we don’t have bail bondsmen,” and poor defendants shouldn’t be jailed just because they can’t come up with cash. “It’s just an impediment to clients, it doesn’t actually do anything.”
Carr set bail at $10,000 and said he would allow Brooks to post 10 percent, or $1,000 cash. If released, Brooks must live in Oswald Harris Court with his mother, who will act as his third-party custodian.
All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this report are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.