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VIPD’s “Operation Top Shottas” Leads to Arrests in St. Croix Shooting and Assault Case

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Jose A. Quinones and Randy H. Morales, apprehended by the Virgin Islands Police Department in “Operation Top Shottas.”

ST. CROIX — The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) has made a significant breakthrough in a St. Croix criminal investigation through “Operation Top Shottas.” On Wednesday, the VIPD announced the arrests of Jose A. Quinones, 21, and Randy H. Morales, 25, in connection with a series of violent acts.

The first of these incidents occurred on October 8, 2023, as reported to the 911 Emergency Call Center. Shots were fired from a moving vehicle at Midland Road, near Marvelous Auto Body, resulting in a disabled vehicle and heightened public concern. The VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau identified Quinones and Morales as the suspects in this attack.

Subsequently, on October 18, 2023, another confrontation took place in the Estate Profit area. VIPD’s Special Operations Unit, while trying to intercept a vehicle driven by Quinones, came under gunfire, leading to a high-speed pursuit. Further investigations affirmed Quinones’s involvement in this shooting.

In January 2024, after detailed investigations, the VIPD obtained arrest warrants for Quinones and Morales. The execution of a search warrant at Quinones’s residence, a key component of Operation “Top Shottas,” led to the discovery and confiscation of multiple illegal firearms, ammunition, and narcotics. Both suspects were then apprehended pursuant to the arrest warrants and evidence seized.

Charges against Quinones and Morales include first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, reckless endangerment, third-degree assault, and illegal possession and use of a firearm.

Following their arrests, the suspects were apprised of their Miranda Rights. With bail set at $1,050,000 for Quinones and $500,000 for Morales, and unable to secure release, they were detained at the John Bell Correctional Facility.

The VIPD has scheduled their Advice of Rights Hearing for January 25 at the V.I. Superior Court, marking the next step in this ongoing judicial process.

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Crime

Daring Nighttime Maritime Operation Foiled by CBP Agents

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In a bold effort thwarted by vigilant Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, a man now faces charges in the Virgin Islands District Court following a thwarted human smuggling operation from Tortola to St. John.

The drama unfolded on the night of February 23, near the serene Leinster Bay in St. John. CBP Marine Interdiction Agents, during their coastal patrol, detected an unlit boat making its secretive journey from the shores of Tortola. Employing night vision technology, the agents meticulously tracked the vessel as it stealthily crossed international waters, arriving in the tranquil vicinity of Leinster Bay, near the historic Annaberg ruins, under the cloak of darkness.

The boat’s attempt to slip back to Tortola was abruptly halted when the agents, revealing their presence with activated lights and sirens, demanded the vessel to stop. Lorenzo Charles, the captain hailing from St. Vincent & the Grenadines, was apprehended, and the boat was seized and towed to St. Thomas.

The capture revealed Charles and five passengers aboard: three individuals from India, including a minor, an Argentinian, and a Dominican Republic national. It was determined that none were U.S. citizens, having entered the country without authorization.

Charles promptly acknowledged his wrongdoing upon interrogation, confessing to a Homeland Security Investigations special agent about the illicit nature of his actions. He disclosed a desperate attempt to settle a $4000 debt by performing the smuggling operation, arranged after a mysterious lender demanded repayment.

According to Charles, the operation was meticulously planned, with the embarkation from Tortola’s West End under the guidance of his creditor, who loaded the five passengers onto his vessel. Despite lacking GPS equipment, Charles was confident in his navigational skills, having observed St. John from Tortola. He admitted to previously smuggling individuals into the U.S. and hoped this operation would extinguish his remaining debt.

The passengers shared a different story, claiming payment to another for their transport from Tortola to St. John, highlighting the complex web of human smuggling operations.

A detention hearing for Charles is scheduled with U.S. Magistrate Ruth Miller. Prosecutors advocate for his detention, citing a significant flight risk, though they remain open to conditional pre-trial release given the identification of a reliable third-party custodian.

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Crime

Law Enforcement Swiftly Captures Suspect in Christiansted Robbery Spree

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Following a series of robbery incidents in Christiansted on February 20, the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) demonstrated remarkable efficiency by arresting 28-year-old Koi Thomas. The alarming events, reported to the emergency services in close succession at approximately 10:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., prompted a swift and thorough response from the VIPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau detectives.

Eyewitness accounts from the victims were crucial in the investigation, enabling law enforcement to quickly gather surveillance footage pinpointing Thomas as the perpetrator. In a fortunate turn of events, Thomas had been apprehended earlier the same day on unrelated larceny charges in the Gallows Bay area, and was already under detention at the John Bell Correctional Facility.

Detectives visited the correctional facility on February 22, where they officially charged Thomas with two counts of third-degree robbery. Subsequently, Thomas was processed at the Wilbur H. Francis Command Police Station, with his bail determined at $25,000.

Despite Thomas’s court hearing being scheduled for the following Friday, information pertaining to his legal proceedings had yet to be disclosed publicly by Sunday. This arrest underscores the vigilance and dedication of the Virgin Islands law enforcement in maintaining public safety and swiftly addressing criminal activities.

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Crime

Tragic Shooting in St. Thomas Leaves Young Man Dead

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A tragic incident unfolded in the Bovoni Housing Community of St. Thomas late on Thursday night, claiming the life of a young resident. Omar K. Fontaine, a 20-year-old local, fell victim to a lethal shooting, succumbing to multiple gunshot wounds.

The incident was detected by the ShotSpotter Detection System, which notified the V.I. Police Department of the gunfire at precisely 11:11 p.m. Officers from the Mariel C. Newton Command swiftly responded to the alert and discovered Fontaine unresponsive. Despite the prompt arrival of emergency medical technicians, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fontaine’s untimely death has sparked a thorough investigation by the Major Crimes Unit of the VIPD, which is determined to bring those responsible to justice. The police are appealing to the community for assistance, encouraging anyone with information to step forward. Contributions can be made directly to the Major Crimes Unit at 340-642-8449, through a call to 911, or by submitting tips anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8476 or online through their tip form.

This devastating event underscores the urgent need for community cooperation and vigilance in combating violence and safeguarding our neighborhoods.

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