Governor renews calls for peace officer status for federal agents

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ST. THOMAS - After a bloody weekend in the territory, Gov. John deJongh Jr. made a renewed call for giving federal agents peace officer status in the Virgin Islands.

DeJongh issued a statement Sunday saying he will ask Senate President Ronald Russell to have the 29th Legislature finally take action on a bill that would grant peace officer status to federal agents while they are assigned in the territory. The Senate is scheduled to be in a two-day formal session this week.

The governor's remarks come after a series of violent incidents left the territory's residents reeling:

- Tiny Jah Jarvis, 31, was shot to death in front of his 6-year-old son Friday night on St. John. The last murder on the island was in 2009. Ralph Titre, 23, turned himself in to police Saturday morning and was charged with first-degree murder and other crimes.

- St. Croix Police Chief Christopher Howell and V.I. Police Officer Elsworth Jones were shot at a road block in Mon Bijou on Saturday night as a car approached and the people inside opened fire. Howell and Elsworth were responding to an armed robbery at a restaurant that happened minutes earlier. Three armed men burst into the restaurant, fired shots and took patrons' jewelry and cash, police said.

- Just hours after Howell and Elsworth were shot, a man ran into Club 54 in Christiansted and shot security guard Ecliff James in the back, hitting him multiple times and killing him.

"The wave of violence this weekend: a fatal shooting on St. John Friday night; the incident of last night which has injured two police officials in addition to a fatal shooting at a nightclub in downtown Christiansted is of deep concern to me as it is to each and every person who calls the Virgin Islands home," deJongh said in a statement issued Sunday evening.

The governor characterized the growing gun violence in the territory as an "epidemic."

"I assure everyone that the leadership of the Police and Justice departments is engaged to deploy every asset available to us to fight this violence head on," he said. "We are working now more than ever with our federal law enforcement partners to bring additional crime fighting resources to the territory as we continue waging the war on the criminal element - a crackdown that is engaged every day at the street level by the officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department."

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