Name of V.I. officer could be added to memorial
Published: March 4, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Government officials are vowing to look into why at least one V.I. Police Officer who died in the line of duty has not been added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Leopold Fredericks, a motorcycle patrolman, died in 1963 in an accident that occurred while he was pursuing a traffic violator on Centerline Road on St. Croix, according to information posted on the V.I. Police Department's website.
His brother, Claude Fredericks, verified this version of events and said that Leopold Fredericks was "crushed between two cars while pursuing a law-breaker."
Claude Fredericks said the first V.I. officer listed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial, Leroy Swan, who himself died in a motorcycle-related accident in 1965, was the one to deliver the news of Leopold Fredericks' death to the Fredericks family.
That would mean Leopold Fredericks, not Swan, was the first V.I. officer to die in the line of duty, according to Claude Fredericks.
Kaitlin Gilbride, a researcher at the memorial, said Wednesday that Leopold Fredericks was not in the memorial's database of names.
"Therefore, the department has not sent us any paperwork or submission for his death," she said.
She said the police department can submit the required paperwork to begin the process for his inclusion on the memorial. The earliest-known officer currently on the memorial died in 1791 and was discovered "just a few years ago," Gilbride said.
"Every year we add not only the current year fallen officers but also historical deaths we come across in our research," she said.
Carolie Heyliger, the research manager at the memorial, said subsequently that the memorial was aware of the Fredericks case but reiterated that the police department has not submitted his name for review.
Officials in the offices of Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, both of whom announced earlier this month that V.I. Officer Colvin Georges is slated to be added to the memorial this May, said they would follow up to make sure all of the territory's fallen officers are properly honored.
Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said the governor is reaching out to Christensen to collaborate on the effort.
"The governor fully endorses all efforts to bring recognition to all law enforcement officers who make the ultimate sacrifice while standing as guardians of our communities," Greaux said.
To be included on the memorial, a law enforcement agency must issue a statement to the memorial that the officer died in the line of duty and there must be no information to believe otherwise, according to eligibility guidelines provided by Gilbride. Research staff at the memorial "shall exhaust all possible means available to verify an officer's eligibility status" and make efforts to have the officer's name verified by the law enforcement agency of record and a surviving family member.
'Line of duty'
The case of V.I. Police Cpl. Wendell Williams, another fallen V.I. officer who is not included on the memorial, raises questions about the definition of being killed in the line of duty.
Williams' death remained a mystery until about a year ago, when investigators from the V.I. Police Department's Cold Case Unit traced a series of events that began with Williams' kidnapping in 2001 and culminated in his torture and murder at an abandoned building on St. Croix's east end, according to officials and police records.
Williams, 48, was an 18-year veteran of the Police Department and was described by many as a well-liked and quiet man. He disappeared on June 14, 2001, after completing an all-night shift. His family reported him missing on June 21, and officers went out in full force in search of him.
On June 25, police found his vehicle, a black and silver 2001 Suzuki Vitara, burned beyond recognition in a remote area in Estate Castle Burke, causing police to upgrade the case from a missing person search to a criminal investigation.
According to court records, one witness in the case, whose identity has not been revealed, told detectives the five suspects arrested in the case did not realize Williams was a police officer until the media frenzy that followed his disappearance. This witness told police of two potential motives for the murder.
The first: "The corporal touched something he shouldn't have touched," according to a detective, though there was no clarification of exactly what the word "touched" meant. The detective continued: "There are only two things these people are involved in: guns and drugs."
The second possible motive was that Williams "was about to tell on them," the witness told police.
According to the memorial's eligibility guidelines, the term "killed in the line of duty" means a law enforcement officer has died "as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty."
This can include officers who are killed while off-duty but are responding to a law violation, who are en route to an emergency, and who are driving to or from work, according to the guidelines.
Gilbride said last week that the memorial had not received a submission regarding Williams' case but would be willing to review it.
"We have yet to receive a submission from the department for Cpl. Williams," she said. "Once we receive the submission from the department, we will review his case."
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.