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Routine Traffic Stop Nets 2 Suspects On Illegal Gun Charges

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islands Police have arrested a motorist and their passenger on gun charges after conducting a traffic stop in St. Thomas while looking for a stolen vehicle.

Kiante Christopher, 23, and Shyrah Isaac, 24, were each arrested and charged with constructive possession of an unlicensed firearm, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, possession of ammunition, and possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a church, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

Routine Traffic Stop Nets 2 Suspects On Illegal Gun Charges
VIPD mugshot of Kiante Christopher, 23, of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.

During the traffic stop at 2:40 a.m. Saturday, officers noticed an odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle, according to the VIPD.  

“Upon further inspection of the vehicle, a loaded black unmarked 9mm handgun with an obliterated serial number and several 9mm cartridges was discovered in a black bag located on the driver’s seat near the center console,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.   

Neither driver nor passenger in the vehicle indicated that they had obtained a license to carry a firearm in the Virgin Islands, according to Dratte.   

Routine Traffic Stop Nets 2 Suspects On Illegal Gun Charges
VIPD mugshot of Shyrah Isaac, 24, of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.

Bail for Christopher and Isaac was set at $75,000. Unable to post bail, they were each remanded to the custody of the Bureau of Corrections pending advice of rights hearings. 

All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this report are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Man Charged With Stealing Cell Phone, Violating Restraining Order At Agrifest

KINGSHILL A St. Croix man was arrested after police said he stole a woman’s cell phone and violated a restraining order, according to documents filed in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands.

Jovon Joseph was arrested and charged with contempt of court-domestic violence, the VIPD’s probable cause fact sheet states. He was held without bail pursuant to the territory’s domestic violence law and appeared in court for his advice-of-rights hearing Wednesday.

Man Charged With Stealing Cell Phone, Violating Restraining Order At Agrifest
Jovon Joseph on Facebook

The incident occurred at around May 29, when police stationed at the Department of Agriculture for Agrifest 2022 responded to a report of a woman having her cell phone stolen, according to an affidavit filed by Virgin Islands Police.

“The victim stated that she was at the Annual Agriculture Fair, located in Lower Love Frederiksted St. Croix, when Mr. Jovon Joseph (her ex-boyfriend) approached her, held her tightly by her right wrist and began pulling her towards the eastern exit gate,” the probable cause fact sheet states.

The victim told police that she has a temporary restraining order against Joseph, which forbids him from coming within 100 feet of her.

“The victim stated that she kept pleading with Mr. Joseph to release her hands, but he refused and kept pulling her towards the eastern exit gate,” the VIPD’s sworn affidavit states. “The victim added that Mr. Joseph also grabbed her cell phone from her hand.”

As the estranged couple was nearing the exit gate, the victim noticed three police officers in the area and asked them to help her.

“Mr. Joseph released her hands when he observed the police officers walking in his direction,” the probable cause fact sheet states.

The victim told the officers at Agrifest that Joseph had her cell phone and the officers helped her to retrieve her cell phone from him, according to court records.

All individuals listed as arrested or charged with a crime in this report are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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Students of Color Push Back On Calls For Police In Schools

RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) After the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, schools around the country pledged to boost security measures and increased the presence of law enforcement on campus — partly to reassure parents and students.

But police inside schools can make some students more uneasy, not less. Especially for Black students and other students of color, their personal experiences with policing can leave them feeling unsafe and alienated from school when they see officers on campus.

High school senior Malika Mobley has seen three different school resource officers patrolling the campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Once on the way home from school, Mobley saw officers detain a visibly distraught classmate and push the student into the back of a police vehicle.

“They were crying, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I didn’t do anything,’” said Mobley, co-president of Wake County Black Student Coalition. “I was just forced to stand there and couldn’t do anything.”

Since 2020, the student group has advocated for eliminating police officers from school buildings in favor of investing in counselors and support staff for students.

“We don’t see police presence as part of the solution,” Mobley said. “If you really think about why police don’t make us safer, you can draw connections to all types of tragedies that impact the most marginalized among us.”

Police officers have a regular presence at schools across the country in recent decades, often in the form of school resource officers, who are tasked with building relationships with young people to promote trust of law enforcement, providing security, and enforcing laws. Critics say having armed police on campus often results in Black students being disproportionately arrested and punished, leading to what they call the school-to-prison pipeline.

Researchers have found that Black students report feeling less safe around police officers than their white peers and that officers in predominantly Black school districts were more likely to view students themselves to be threats.

Black students and other students of color also are disproportionately likely to have negative interactions with police in schools, ranging from referrals to law enforcement to being arrested or restrained, said Katherine Dunn, director of the Opportunity to Learn program at the Advancement Project. Since 2007, the Advancement Project has documented at least 200 instances of officers at schools assaulting students, she said.

“It shows all the physical harms that young people experience by police,” she said. “It’s also the experience of being degraded and made to feel like a criminal because you have to walk down the hallway to your class with several armed cops, who are not there for your safety, who you see arrest your friends, assault your friends.”

In 2018, after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state Legislature passed laws mandating public schools to have either law enforcement or armed personnel present on campuses.

A study of the law’s impact by F. Chris Curran, a University of Florida professor, found the expanded police presence was followed by an increase in school arrests and the number of reported behavioral incidents. He said there are many factors to consider in deciding the role police play in schools.

“I’d like to see that conversation include thoughtful considerations of potential benefits, decreasing certain kinds of behaviors, but also the potential unintended consequences, if that’s increasing the likelihood students are arrested or potentially increasing racial disparities in discipline and arrest rates,” Curran said.

While there are examples of school resource officers who have intervened in incidents of gun violence, Curran said, the presence of law enforcement does not always guarantee that shootings or other violence won’t occur, or that the officer would be immediately effective at stopping the perpetrator and minimizing casualties.

In a statement issued this week on best practices for school security in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting, the National Association of School Resource Officers emphasized the importance of having “a carefully selected, specifically trained SRO on its campus whenever school is in session.”

The nonprofit group has rejected criticism that officers contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline. Officers who follow its best practices, it says, do not arrest students for disciplinary issues that would be handled ordinarily by educators.

As elsewhere around the country last week, the police presence was increased outside schools across North Carolina to provide reassurance to families in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting.

Wake County schools have 75 school resource officers, drawn from several local law enforcement agencies.

The Wake County Black Student Coalition’s campaign to remove the officers stemmed partly from student accounts of bad experiences with officers, including a 2017 incident where a school resource officer was filmed picking up a Black girl and slamming her to the ground, said Chalina Morgan-Lopez, a high school senior who is co-president of the student group.

“I think it’s a reasonable response to want more officers in schools, especially from people who genuinely do feel protected by law enforcement, even though that’s not my lived experience,” Morgan-Lopez said. “But I think people need to take into account … that officers do in fact do more harm than they do good.”

Last summer the school system made several changes to its school resource officer program, including a new process for fielding grievances involving officers and adjustments to training to prepare them better for the school environment, said Lisa Luten, a spokesperson for the school system. The review was based on community feedback the district sought in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Luten said.

“This is not a new conversation for us,” she said. “That certainly brought it back to light.”

By ANNIE MA/Associated Press

Ma, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, writes about education and equity for AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/anniema15

___

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UVI Students Get $48K In 13D Business Launch Competition 

CHARLOTTE AMALIE Three University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) student entrepreneurs were awarded $48,000 at the annual 13D Entrepreneurship Business Launch Competition held virtually on May 6, providing them with valuable start-up funds to pursue their business ventures. 

Christopher McDonald earned $24,000 for his MappIt! Geographic Information System (GIS) business start-up, and an additional $24,000 was awarded to Mitchell Turnbull and his teammate Walter Morris for their Cash N’Crypto ATM business idea. The 13D Competition is designed to eliminate the obstacle of financing for UVI student entrepreneurs who have great ideas for potentially profitable businesses but no access to start-up capital.  

“The two teams that pitched this year were absolutely fantastic,” said Tim Faley, the Kiril Sokoloff Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UVI. “I especially want to thank 13D Research & Strategy (www.13D.com) and Viya (www.viya.vi) for the funding that makes this program possible.” 

UVI Students Get K In 13D Business  Launch Competition 
Mitchell Turnbull

UVI Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship Glenn Metts commented, “During a pandemic and amid the storm of instability that it caused, the students rose up and did something extremely unusual – they built a viable small start-up over just a six-month period. We often forget just how daunting the13D Business Launch Competition is for students, to build a real business at their age, prior to graduation, is a difficult and ultimately challenging task. The two finalist teams are students we should be proud of at UVI and in our community.” 

In the competition, students present a “Shark Tank”-like pitch for start-up funds before a panel of judges. McDonald’s MappIt! GIS services company will use ArcGIS mapping software and aerial photography to provide environmental data analysis for planning and management decisions. In his presentation, McDonald demonstrated how his services could aid multiple local government agencies in mapping their resources, properties and other environmental data across the Territory. McDonald, who graduated this month with a master’s degree in Public Administration, first conceived of the idea after participating in a NASA internship that introduced him to the field of GIS and led him to take a GIS course at UVI.  

“Being a part of this competition has enhanced my ability to believe in myself and pushed me to turn my ideas into reality,” said McDonald. “I’m grateful to Dr. Faley and Dr. Metts who met with me weekly to help me organize and develop a strong presentation. They believe in the students and our dreams, and I’m grateful for this opportunity and for people like them at UVI.” 

Drs. Faley and Metts also mentored the Turnbull and Morris team. “They set the table for us and set us on the right path,” said Morris, a UVI sophomore studying Computer Science. “They were so responsive and receptive of our work and gave us confidence,” added Turnbull, a sophomore double majoring in Business and Business Management. With strategically located ATM machines in the Virgin Islands and a website to educate customers about the value of crypto currency, Cash N’Crypto ATM aims to be the first of its kind in the VI to allow easy access to purchasing or converting crypto currency to cash. The enterprising duo will use the funds to navigate the regulatory and legal aspects of launching the business and for equipment and marketing.  

Morris encouraged other students to “expand your horizons and don’t let anyone stop you!” The participants agreed that the competition was a great opportunity to hone their research and presentation skills as well as improve their understanding of business.  

Competition judges included Jennifer Matarangas-King, vice president of public relations and governmental affairs at Viya; Leon Hughes, founder and CEO of NEARiX, a software service company on St. Croix, and Dr. Thomas Lombardi, UVI assistant professor and Department Chair of computer information systems. 

“We were especially proud of these leaders who created businesses during a very challenging time in history when many small businesses were shuttered. For these entrepreneurs to develop a business plan, seek funding and bring their dreams to fruition is truly commendable,” said Matarangas-King, who has served as a judge since the inception of the program.  

The 13D Entrepreneurship Competition was established in 2012 through a gift to UVI from investment strategist and entrepreneur Kiril Sokoloff, the founder of 13D Research (USVI) LLC. The competition is open to all eligible students within the University. As part of the program, student entrepreneurs pitch their financially sustainable businesses and the funds necessary to get them launched. Utilizing the enormous expertise of the companies associated with the Research and Technology Park, as well as local, regional, and national business leaders, students receive very practical guidance, insights, and expertise from experienced entrepreneurs. The competition is expected to return to an in-person event next year at the newly unveiled 13D Research & Strategy Innovation Center on the Orville E. Kean campus on St. Thomas. 

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Trinidad and Tobago In Talks With Quanten LLC For Refinery Sale

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) Trinidad and Tobago is in talks with U.S.-based Quanten LLC for the sale of the country’s refinery, Energy Minister Stuart Young said on Sunday, more than a year after the government rejected a proposal by a local group to buy the facility.

The Caribbean nation’s government three years ago shut down the state-run refinery Petrotrin, which at the time had a capacity to process about 140,000 barrels per day of crude, due to losses of over $1 billion in the prior five years.

“Quanten LLC is an American company that is engaged in the (request for proposal) process for the refinery,” Young said in a statement.

“The company is engaged with TPHL and has to go through the standard and required processes in these types of matters,” he said, referring to state-owned Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited, which is handling the request for proposal process.

Quanten did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trinidad and Tobago’s government in early 2021 said Patriotic Energies, a subsidiary of a trade union which represents oil workers, could not provide any credible offer of financing for the refinery.

Reporting by Linda Hutchinson-Jafar in Port of Spain and Brian Ellsworth in Miami; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Man Wanted In 2×4 Assault Arrested By CIB: VIPD

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A St. Thomas man wanted for hitting another man with a two-by-four has been in official custody since last night, authorities said.

Pedro Zapata, 59, was arrested at 10:06p.m. Friday and charged with third-degree assault, simple assault & battery, and disturbance of the peace, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

The charges stem from an incident that that took place on May 9, 2022, in the area of Fort Christian parking lot, according to the VIPD.

“Investigation revealed Zapata struck the male victim in his face with a piece of wood (2×4) causing injury,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said.

Bail for Zapata was set at $27,500. Jnable to post bail, he was remanded to the Bureau of Corrections pending an advice-of-rights hearing. 

This case is currently under active investigation by the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Anyone with information regarding this crime is urged to contact 911, the Criminal Investigation Bureau Ofc. S. Donastorg at 340-774-2211 ext. 5610 or Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222-8477.

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FEMA and USVI Run Disaster Simulations To Prepare For Hurricane Season

CHRISTIANSTED The majority of the people living in the territory — regretfully — know what happens when a major hurricane strikes.

As the June 1 start date of the Atlantic hurricane season approached … governmental agencies rehearsed in detail — the steps to take — should history repeat itself … and the USVI become plunged into a disaster once more.

The government of the Virgin Islands, its agencies, and federal partners from across the country gathered in the U.S. Virgin Islands recently to finalize preparation efforts in advance of hurricane season.

In a simulation of real-life hurricane response, participants worked from Emergency Operations Centers on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas and FEMA facilities in the territory while practicing their ability to work together over a large area with degraded communications.

“For the over two years, we’ve had lots of practice working with the federal government to beat COVID-19 and we know that practice will make our response better if a hurricane brings its winds and rains to our shores,” said Governor Albert Bryan. “Last week, GVI, led by VITEMA, worked together with FEMA to conduct multiple exercises to test and practice our hurricane response plans and I have been briefed on their plans for the season. While we always have more work to do, I’m confident we are moving the territory in the right direction.”

This weeklong series of exercises is the capstone event of a nearly six month-long planning effort to prepare for the 2022 hurricane season. Preparedness is an ongoing process and last week’s event provided opportunities to integrate lessons learned from the Irma/Maria response efforts, address gaps with territorial or local resources and then identify federal resources necessary to respond to destructive storms in the territory

“FEMA is committed to helping Virgin Islanders before, during and after a disaster,” said Mark A. Walters, FEMA’s Virgin Islands Caribbean Area Office Coordinator. “A partnership with a focus on year-round planning with real-time response exercises puts the federal government and the territory in a position to respond to hurricanes that approach the U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA is ready to support the U.S. Virgin Islands with requests to support the territory with its response to storms and all hazards.”

Topics covered during the event included food/water distribution, patient movement, route clearance, debris removal, temporary power and power restoration, emergency responder communications as well as public information and warning.

“For the past six months, we have worked closely with USVI territorial agencies and our FEMA partners to get the territory ready for hurricane season,” said Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Daryl Jaschen. “As Director of VITEMA, my goal is to continue to build on our successes and identify opportunities to improve. As we continue to prepare, VITEMA reminds the Virgin Islands community to Be Prepared, to Stay Informed and Be Vigilant. VITEMA knows that the USVI community understands the importance of preparedness and moving forward, we will use new and innovative ideas to keep our community engaged and strengthen our core capabilities.”

Virgin Islanders should prepare to be self-sufficient in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane and take steps to protect their property. Those with disabilities and others with access and functional needs might have additional considerations.

Build a kit. Families should be prepared to shelter in a secure and safe location for up to five days after a disaster. Remember roads might be impassable, gas stations and grocery stores could be closed, power might be out, and communications could be interrupted.

  • Store a gallon of water for each person per day for five days, for drinking and sanitation.
  • Gather a five-day supply of nonperishable food and medications.
  • Have enough antibiotic ointment, hygienic products, diapers and wipes available.
  • Store supplies to meet the needs of individual family members, including infants and young children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and pets or service animals.
  • The Virgin Islands Department of Health has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu, items can include:
    • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.
  • Protect important documents such as vital records, insurance policies, medical information and property and financial records, by storing copies in a safe deposit box or another location separate from your home. These items might be necessary for survivors who could be eligible to apply for disaster assistance.
    • Keep your home and vehicle insured against wind and flood damage. Also, remember to update your property insurance to cover current construction costs and be aware that a property insurance policy does not offer coverage for flood damage. For more information about getting flood insurance, visit floodsmart.gov.

Make a Family Communications Plan. Identify alternate ways of staying in touch with loved ones.

  • Choose an out-of-town friend or relative as a point of contact.
  • Ensure children have emergency contacts memorized or saved in a secure place
  • Determine a safe, familiar place the family can go for protection or to reunite.
  • Make sure the location is in a central and accessible location for all family members, including family members with disabilities.
  • If you have pets or service animals, make sure the location is animal-friendly.
  • For more information on making a family communication plan go to Family Communication Plan.

Stay Informed. Listen to local officials’ bulletins for the most up-to-date information before, during and after a disaster. It’s a good idea to have a battery or solar-powered radio to receive disaster notices and updates.

Follow VITEMA on Facebook, Twitter (@readyusvi) and on TikTok (vitema_usvi) to receive up-to-date preparedness and emergency information.

Also, sign up for emergency alerts and notifications on www.vitema.vi.gov . You can get emergency alerts delivered to you via text message or email.

Download the FEMA app on your smartphone and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Check the settings on your mobile phones to make sure you can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts, which require no sign-up.

SOURCE: Homeland Security

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Help Police Find Pedro Zapata Wanted For 2×4 Assault

CHARLOTTE AMALIE Police need your help to find a man on St. Thomas wanted for a vicious 2×4 assault on another man, authorities said.

Pedro Zapata, 59, of Charlotte Amalie is wanted in connection with an assault which occurred on May 9th, 2022 in the Fort Christian parking lot, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

“No additional information was provided in regards to this suspect,” the VIPD said on Facebook today.

If you see Zapata, please call 911 and Detective S. Donastorg in the Criminal Investigation Bureau at (340) 714-9808 extension 5575 or Crime Stoppers USVI 1-800-222-8477 or submit a tip online at www.crimestoppersvi.org 

This Virgin Islands Free Press news article was updated on June 4.

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Social Security Board of Trustees: Outlook of Combined Trust Funds Improves

The Social Security Board of Trustees on Thursday released its annual report on the financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds.

The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, one year later than projected last year, with 80 percent of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than last year’s estimate, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund asset reserves are not projected to become depleted during the 75-year projection period.

In the 2022 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

· The asset reserves of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds declined by $56 billion in 2021 to a total of $2.852 trillion.

· The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income in 2022 and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. Total cost began to be higher than total income in 2021. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.

· The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2035 – one year later than last year’s projection. At that time, there would be sufficient income coming in to pay 80 percent of scheduled benefits.

“It is important to strengthen Social Security for future generations. The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually,” said Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “Social Security will continue to be a vital part of the lives of 66 million beneficiaries and 182 million workers and their families during 2022.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

Total income, including interest, to the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.088 trillion in 2021. ($980.6 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $37.6 billion from taxation of benefits, and $70.1 billion in interest)

· Total expenditures from the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to nearly $1.145 trillion in 2021.

· Social Security paid benefits of $1.133 trillion in calendar year 2021. There were about 65 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.

· The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 3.42 percent of taxable payroll – lower than the 3.54 percent projected in last year’s report.

· During 2021, an estimated 179 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.

· The cost of $6.5 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2021 was a very low 0.6 percent of total expenditures.

· The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 2.5 percent in 2021.

The Board of Trustees usually comprises six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Martin J. Walsh, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustee positions are currently vacant.

View the 2022 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2022/

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Suspect Arrested In Fatal Shooting Seen On Video Firing Gun

CHRISTIANSTED  One of the two suspects in a fatal shooting in Golden Rock last month was captured on surveillance video firing a gun at the victim, authorities said.

Timothy Perez, 42, of St. Croix, was arrested today and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sean Joseph at Harborview Apartments on May 7, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

At the crime scene last month, officers discovered an unresponsive body of an adult male, lying in the vicinity of the office in the plant bed, according to the VIPD. The male victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his upper torso and head and succumbed to his injuries.  

Multiple spent casing was collected during the processing of the crime scene, police said. The male was identified as Sean Joseph aka Akeem Williams by his next of kin. The victim Joseph had been released less than 24 hours earlier from the John Bell Adult Correctional Facility. 

“Video surveillance footage collected in the area assisted the investigation and lead us to secure an arrest warrant for 42-year-old Timothy Perez who was observed on footage firing multiple shots at the deceased,” VIPD Communications Director Glen Dratte said. 

Bail for Perez was set by Superior Court Magistrate Judge Yolan Ross at 1,000,000.00 with no ten percent. 

Perez was transported to John Bell Correctional facility pending his advised of rights hearing on Friday, June 3, 2022. 

“Detectives are still seeking the second suspect in this homicide, if you know something, say something,” according to Dratte.

Call the CIB Tip-Line at 340-778-4950 and 340-712-6182, Crime Stoppers VI 1-800-222-8477 or 911.