Judge OKs $1M bail for 5 men charged in St. Croix nightclub shooting


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ST. CROIX - The five men arrested in connection with the early Saturday morning shootout outside a midisland nightclub that left one man dead and an off-duty V.I. Police officer and a bystander seriously injured were advised of their rights on Tuesday - even as two of the men still remain hospitalized with gunshot injuries.

Veteran V.I. Police Sgt. Anthony Hector, who was wounded outside the Front Line club after confronting armed men and ordering them to drop their weapons, was airlifted to Jackson Memorial-Ryder Trauma Center in Florida on Monday night.

While the V.I. Police Department still is not confirming that Hector is the wounded officer, St. Croix Police Chief James Parris said that the officer who was wounded is in stable condition and has been doing well.

On Tuesday morning, Elijah Felix, 18; Eugene Roberts, 26; and Derick Liburd, 23, each appeared in V.I. Superior Court before Judge Harold Willocks to be advised of their rights on first-degree murder and other charges.

The men were dressed in red Bureau of Corrections prisoner's uniforms and restrained at their wrists and ankles as they stood before Willocks. Roberts could barely stand, and he was hunched over in pain from a gunshot wound that police said he sustained in the shoot-out. His steps were labored as he walked to and from his seat, the pain apparent in his face.

Following the hearing, Willocks - accompanied by attorneys, marshals, clerks and police detectives - went to advise the two additional defendants, Lester Roberts, 24, and Larry Williams, 29, as they lay medicated and attached to IV bags in their beds at Luis Hospital, also with gunshot wounds.

With a nurse at each of their sides to monitor their comfort levels, Willocks asked each of them how they were feeling.

Both said they were in a significant amount of pain and were medicated, but were alert and willing to go forward with the hearing.

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.

During the hearing Tuesday, Willocks upheld the bail that was set at $1 million for each man.

Unable to post bail, the men remain jailed at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility.

According to the probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. Police Lt. Dino Herbert, he interviewed several witnesses and determined that 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 Williams tried to whisper in the woman's ear, and Vernege asked him what he was doing, telling him that he was disrespecting him.

Herbert said an argument began and escalated until the woman pulled Vernege away, and as they got to his truck, two gunmen approached and opened fire inside the truck, fatally striking Vernege.

Police later recovered a firearm from Vernege's truck, according to Herbert's affidavit.

Herbert said Hector was inside the club when two women ran in and told him that shots were being fired outside, and Hector went outside and saw one man firing shots. Hector identified himself as a police officer and told the man to drop his weapon as other patrons ran for cover in the area, according to the affidavit.

Hector fired at least two shots at two shooters who had ignored him before someone tackled the detective from behind, according to the affidavit.

Herbert said when Hector was tackled, his firearm fell, and he and the person who tackled him began to struggle for the gun. As his assailant got closer to the firearm, Hector realized that he would be shot and ran before being shot in the back with his own weapon, according to Herbert's police report.

Herbert said in his report that it was apparent the five men traveled to Front Line in two separate vehicles and that after the shooting left Williams and the two Roberts brothers injured, 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.

In addition to the three men with gunshot wounds, Liburd, who was the driver, had a laceration on his head from the crash, according to Herbert. Felix had fled the scene, but he later turned himself in to police in the Estate Ruby area, according to the affidavit.

Herbert said another man, who had just arrived at the establishment when the gunfire erupted, also was shot several times in his abdomen. The man told police he had just stopped by the club and restaurant after leaving the casino and heard shots ring out, Herbert said. The man said he ducked down behind a car, and a man followed him and shot him several times, according to the affidavit.

That shooting victim still is recovering, according to the affidavit.

Herbert said police recovered six handguns, including Hector's police firearm, from the crashed vehicle.

According to the police report, Liburd waived his right to remain silent and told police that he and Felix had gone to the club, and while they were listening to music, they heard more than 40 shots ring out and they ran outside to Liburd's car.

According to the reports, Liburd said Williams and the Roberts brothers also jumped into his car, and as they drove up Morning Star Hill, he heard eight or 10 shots ring out and he lost control of his car and crashed.

Liburd said when they got out of the car, they realized that the three men had been shot, but he denied being involved in the Front Line shooting or knowing how the officer's firearm got inside his car, according to the report.

Herbert said 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 fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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