Prosecutors drop charges against man shot by cop at Kirwan Terrace
Published: July 11, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Government has dropped all charges against Azamba Galloway, the 23-year-old man shot by a police officer in the midst of a chase in the Kirwan Terrace housing community on St. Thomas in May.
During Galloway's arraignment Thursday in V.I. Superior Court, the V.I. Attorney General's Office requested that all of the charges be discontinued, at least for the time being.
Galloway initially was charged with first-degree assault; third-degree assault; unauthorized possession of an unlicensed firearm; unauthorized possession of an unlicensed firearm during the commission of a crime; and reckless endangerment after the shooting May 30. Because Magistrate Carolyn Hermon-Percell dismissed the charges without prejudice, the Attorney General's Office can reintroduce the charges at a later time, according to the office's acting criminal division chief, Renee Gumbs-Carty.
"There's some outstanding stuff that we're waiting on," Gumbs-Carty said. "We have to depend on the V.I. Police Department."
The prosecuting attorneys do not have enough information at this time to move forward with the case, and it is unclear whether they ever will. Gumbs-Carty said that the Attorney General's Office is waiting for general documents, but that she was not sure when the police would produce them.
"They know what's needed," Gumbs-Carty said.
Galloway has no criminal record and works as a technician at the tax assessor's office. He previously attended the University of the Virgin Islands, where he proved to be a promising basketball player for the school team.
Galloway was at least the third resident to be involved in an officer-involved shooting this year in the territory.
One prior fatal, officer-involved shooting occurred on St. Thomas. Police shot Clyde Norford, 31, dead on the front steps of Fort Christian just after midnight April 26 during the opening night of the Carnival Village.
A week earlier, an off-duty officer was shot outside a St. Croix night club.
Since Galloway's shooting, another man, O'Benson Antoine, was shot dead by a police officer on Cassi Hill on St. Thomas during the mid-morning hours of July 4. Antoine, who died of a single gunshot wound, was stopped while in a vehicle with his sister, 19-year-old Nellie Antoine, and two other men, Miguel Jerson, 20, and Shamal Gabriel, 31.
All three are facing weapon and assault charges in V.I. Superior Court, after they were arrested hours after O'Benson Antoine was shot.
All four police-involved shooting cases are under investigation, according to the police, though officers have been tight-lipped about all of the cases.
V.I. Police Department spokeswoman Melody Rames would not say definitively whether the officer who shot Galloway, Kendelth Wharton, still is on paid administrative leave, to which he was assigned immediately after the shooting.
"Nothing has changed with the internal investigation at this point. Everything is the same," Rames said. "The V.I. Police Department needs to obtain the court findings and review them before any further decisions are made."
Wharton, who has been involved in other officer-involved shootings, was not present to testify about the incident when Galloway first appeared in court, but another officer who had been on the scene at the time, Akeem Frett, did testify. Galloway, whose limbs were wrapped around his gunshot wounds at the time, sat in a wheelchair during Frett's testimony that day.
According to Frett, about eight to 10 special operations officers went to Kirwan Terrace about 5:40 p.m. the day of the shooting.
The officers were there to conduct "an inspection for any illegal activity and to remove any tables, chairs and other items that would cause individuals to loiter on the public street," according to the probable cause fact sheet, written by Frett.
The document initially read that it was written by Wharton, though that information was stricken from the fact sheet.
Upon arrival at the housing complex, officers announced that they were with the V.I. Police, as is required by law, Frett said. Galloway at the time of his first hearing in June contested that fact.
Frett said that after the inspection began, he suddenly heard gunshots and realized that Wharton was missing, after which two officers were sent to look for him.
Wharton was located, at which point Wharton heard another officer state on the radio that two men were running behind one of the buildings, and Wharton pursued the men, according to the probable cause fact sheet.
One of the men, Galloway, then "turned" on Wharton, Frett said. Galloway pulled a black pistol from the waist of his pants and pointed it at Wharton, according to the probable cause fact sheet.
Wharton told Frett that he felt that his life was in imminent danger, at which point Wharton shot Galloway.
When Frett spotted Wharton and Galloway, Galloway was on the ground with the firearm two feet away from him, Frett said on the stand. He admitted that he did not see Galloway holding the gun at any time.
The firearm, which has an obliterated serial number, was confiscated and sent to the department's firearms unit, according to a statement Monday from police.
Firearm records indicated that Galloway does not possess a firearms license.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.