Court postpones hearing for 5 men accused in shooting that killed 1, injured VIPD officer
Published: May 14, 2014
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ST. CROIX - The arraignment hearing for five men arrested in connection with the early morning shootout last month outside a mid-island nightclub that left one man dead and an off-duty V.I. Police officer and a bystander seriously injured has been postponed as investigators gather additional information.
Elijah Felix, 18; Eugene Roberts, 26; Derick Liburd, 23; Lester Roberts, 24; and Larry Williams, 29, were scheduled to be arraigned before V.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Molloy at 9 a.m. today on murder and related charges.
However, on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ponteen filed a motion, which Molloy granted, asking for a continuance in the case until next week's arraignment calendar.
All five of the men are charged with first-degree murder; attempted first-degree murder; first-degree assault; third-degree assault; first-degree reckless endangerment; unauthorized possession of a firearm during the commission of crime of violence; unauthorized possession of a firearm; unauthorized possession of ammunition; failure to report a firearm brought into the territory; carrying or using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a violent crime; assault and battery on a police officer; first-degree robbery; grand larceny; possession of stolen property; conversion of government property; brandishing or using a deadly weapon; and interfering with an officer discharging his duties.
Bail for each man was set at $1 million and they remain jailed.
Veteran V.I. Police Sgt. Anthony Hector, who was wounded outside the Front Line club after confronting the armed men and ordering them to drop their weapons, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial-Ryder Trauma Center in Florida two days after the shooting, on April 21.
He continues to recover from his injuries, but according to Ponteen's motion, detectives have been unable to conduct follow-up interviews with Hector because he is in critical condition.
According to the probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. Police Lt. Dino Herbert, 32-year-old Matthew Vernege Jr. and his fiance were leaving the club when a group of men - now identified as the defendants - came in.
Witnesses told police that an argument began between Vernege and Williams and escalated until the woman pulled Vernege away. As the couple got to Vernege's truck, two gunmen approached and opened fire, fatally striking Vernege.
Hector went outside and identified himself as a police officer and told the men to drop the weapons, according to the affidavit.
Hector fired at least two shots at two shooters before someone tackled the detective from behind, according to the affidavit.
Herbert said when Hector was tackled, his firearm fell, and during a struggle, he was shot in the back with his own weapon.
Herbert said the shooting left Williams and the two Roberts brothers injured, and all five men left in the same black vehicle. They traveled on Northside Road, possibly en route to the hospital, when they struck a tree on Morning Star Hill, according to Herbert's report.
Herbert said another man, who had just arrived at the night club when the gunfire erupted, also was shot several times in his abdomen and still is recovering.
Herbert said police recovered six handguns, including Hector's police firearm, from the crashed vehicle, and multiple spent casings found at the club were consistent with weapons in the car found after the crash.
- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.