Man praises police's quick response to armed robbery at St. Croix grocery store


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ST. CROIX - A St. Croix man who said his 9-month-old daughter and her mother were inside Quality Food on Saturday afternoon during an armed robbery said he is grateful to Virgin Islands police officers.

"The police did a really good job on this one, and they were there when they needed to be," said Pranas Karalius. "They were there really quickly."

Karalius said that he and the mother of his children work at Quality Food, which is a wholesale food service distributor that also includes a retail store. The baby was with her mother at work on Saturday afternoon, he said.

The armed robbery was reported to Emergency 911 dispatchers shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Police said officers arriving on the scene in Castle Coakley on Saturday afternoon encountered two men suspected in the robbery as they came out of Quality Food.

According to police, one of the men "exchanged gunfire with police as he exited the business. That suspect was wounded and police are searching for the second suspect."

Karalius said that his baby girl, her mother and the owner of the business were there when the robbery occurred.

Karalius, on the other hand, was in Plaza Extra doing some grocery shopping with a friend when he got a phone call about the robbery, he said.

"All the news I got was that they were being held up at gunpoint," he said. "I had a shopping cart full of stuff, and we were just getting ready to check out, and I ended up leaving it where it was and running out the door."

Frantic, Karalius and his friend drove to Quality Food.

When they made it there, they found the place surrounded by police cars - and an ambulance was there, he said.

He ran up, but was told he could go no further.

Police, though, told him right away that his loved ones were OK, he said.

Karalius said Monday that he has since seen the damage done when the shots were fired.

The police statement does not indicate how many officers fired their weapons in the exchange with the man or who fired first. The injured man was taken to Luis Hospital for treatment of three gunshot wounds.

Karalius on Monday said he knows one thing for sure: He is grateful to police and glad they got there when they did.

"The police did their job, and the criminals are criminals - and there was a 9-month-old involved," he said. "The police did a very good job, and were there when they needed to be."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi .

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