Officer Wharton's record: Death, excessive force, questionable arrests
Published: June 13, 2014
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V.I. Police Officer Kendelth Wharton has a history of troubled interactions with the public, including shooting three civilians - one a 17-year-old that he shot dead - in the last eight years.
The most recent of those shootings happened May 30, when Wharton shot Azamba Galloway, 23, in Kirwan Terrace on St. Thomas.
Galloway, who was shot in the hand and foot, was arrested a few days later. Police said Galloway and another man were running away from an area where Special Operations Bureau officers intended to do an "inspection" and that Wharton gave chase and shot Galloway after Galloway pointed a gun at him.
Wharton remains on the police force on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation. He has not been charged with any crimes. Daily News attempts to reach Wharton were unsuccessful.
It is unclear how many shootings Wharton, or any other officer within the V.I. Police Department, has been involved in, because V.I. Police does not disclose names of officers involved in shootings - or other incidents - unless criminal charges are filed.
Police officials cite a provision in collective bargaining agreements as the reason they do not release the names.
When The Daily News publishes the name of an officer who was involved in a shooting or some other incident, it is because the identity has been confirmed through other means, such as court documents. Sometimes, too, members of the public have come forward to complain about an officer's conduct, and the officer's name becomes public that way.
A search of Daily News archives turns up Wharton's name in connection with a number of incidents, including:
- In June 2006, Wharton was working undercover in a sting operation in Hospital Ground on St. Thomas when he shot 17-year-old Kenrique Caines dead.
Police said Caines was fatally shot in the chest after pulling a gun on Wharton, who was working undercover to make a stolen goods buy.
According to police, Caines had called Wharton to set up a meeting near the Winston Raymo basketball court to sell stolen property.
Police said Caines approached the rear of Wharton's unmarked vehicle near the stadium and pulled a gun on the undercover officer, demanding Wharton's money. The officer shot Caines once in the chest, killing him.
Witnesses on the basketball court who spoke to The Daily News said they saw the victim driving by in a car, which was followed by an SUV. They said Caines got out of the car a few yards from the recreation center's basketball court and within seconds, they heard one gunshot.
Witnesses said the shooter seemed shocked after he fired and ran to the motionless man yelling, "Oh my God," and shaking him to see if he was alive. Some witnesses said the man who was shot was not armed.
- In 2003, Wharton was one of the officers who Coki Point beach vendors said were drinking on duty.
Their complaints led to a Daily News special report, "Badges and Beers." A photograph of Wharton holding a red plastic cup was published on the front page of the newspaper. Police officials said the accusation of his drinking on the job could not be confirmed.
- A St. Thomas business owner filed a complaint with Internal Affairs in August 2006, claiming Wharton, who was off-duty, pistol-whipped him outside a nightclub, after an incident in which the man's vehicle was double-parked, partially blocking traffic.
According to Aron Ruan, Wharton struck Ruan and another man with his gun in the early morning hours Aug. 19, 2006, and then took the men to the Police Department's Zone A Command, where he told them not to say anything about what happened.
At the time, Wharton was on paid administrative leave, and had been since the June 22, 2006, shooting of Caines.
- In January 2007, Wharton, while off-duty, arrested a man whom he said struck him with a vehicle at Coki Point beach.
During a probable cause hearing, Wharton said that he arrested John Ptarcinski, 53, after Ptarcinski refused to move his red Chevrolet Blazer to allow traffic to pass. Wharton said that after he identified himself as a police officer that afternoon, Ptarcinski shouted an obscenity at him. The officer said he then ordered the man to put on his seat belt, only to be cursed again.
Wharton testified that he ordered Ptarcinski out of the car, at which point the driver "stroked me, pushing me back" a few times with the Blazer.
A week later, prosecutors dismissed criminal charges against Ptarcinski.
Assistant Attorney General Brenda Scales said the charges were dropped because police did not provide the V.I. Justice Department with the case file or any evidence beyond a probable cause fact sheet prepared by Wharton.
Police officials did not provide information about what Wharton, who was still on administrative leave, was doing directing traffic that day.
- In July 2010, Wharton was one of four officers from St. Thomas and three from St. John honored as officers of the month for different months. Wharton confiscated one-third of the firearms the Special Operations Bureau seized in April 2010 and made four arrests that month, according to police.
- On Oct. 30, 2011, Wharton, while off-duty, shot Claude Auguste at Lake's Chicken Fry and Bar in Smith Bay.
According to a probable cause fact sheet by Officer Ingrid Bukle, Wharton had stopped in to eat and told police he saw Auguste harrassing one of the restaurant employees.
According to Bukle, Wharton asked Auguste to leave, then pulled his badge and identified himself as a police officer. As he was escorting Auguste outside, Auguste punched him and pulled a box cutter on Wharton, Bukle wrote.
Wharton told Auguste to drop the knife, and when Auguste continued to approach him with the knife, Wharton again identified himself as a police officer and then shot several rounds at Auguste, according to the affidavit.
Auguste suffered gunshot wounds to the lower torso. The case against Auguste is pending.
- Wharton also was involved in a case in which he pulled over Ahmoi Lewis during a traffic stop, and Lewis was arrested on a weapons charge, though Wharton did not testify in the case, which was handled in federal court.
Department of Planning and Natural Resources officers had told Wharton that a white Toyota Camry was carrying firearms after the DPNR officers received a phoned in tip, and Wharton later stopped the vehicle, according to court documents.
Lewis' conviction later was overturned because he was stopped without reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation had been committed.