Prosecutors withdraw charges against man police shot during St. Croix robbery until he is well enough to be advised of his rights


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ST. CROIX - Prosecutors have moved to withdraw charges filed in the case of a man arrested after being shot by police during a robbery on Saturday.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ponteen addressed the court Wednesday morning and advised Magistrate Jessica Gallivan that his office was withdrawing the preliminary charging document - the probable cause sheet generated by the arresting officer - in the case that charged Edigbierto Diaz in connection with the robbery.

Diaz, 45, of Estate Profit was arrested as he lay seriously wounded at Luis Hospital on Monday - two days after he was shot three times by police. The shooting happened when Diaz and another man tried to make their getaway following an armed robbery of the Quality Food, a Castle Coakley wholesale food market and retail store, police said.

On Tuesday, V.I. Police Detective Cureen Smith told the court that because of the extent of his injuries, Diaz has been under heavy medication, and she did not know how soon he would recover to a state where he would be alert enough to be advised of his rights.

Defense Attorney Yolan Brow raised the concern that a defendant should be advised within 48 hours of being arrested and that, despite Diaz's delicate medical state, having more time lapse between his arrest and his being advised of his rights would be a violation of Diaz's constitutional rights.

Ponteen said withdrawing the court documents clears the clock, and police can rearrest Diaz when they determine that he is physically and mentally able to go through the process.

Diaz initially was charged with first-degree robbery; third-degree assault; grand larceny; possession of stolen property; carrying a dangerous weapon during the commission of a violent crime; failure to report a firearm brought into the territory; and possession of ammunition.

According to police, emergency dispatchers were notified about the armed robbery just before 4 p.m. Saturday.

Police reported that they responded within minutes of the robbery call and encountered two men dressed in dark clothing, wearing masks and wielding handguns running away from the store. As the men saw officers approaching, they ran back into the establishment, then out through the shipment receiving door, according to police.

Smith said officers reported that as they ordered the men to stop, one of the men - now identified as Diaz - pointed his firearm at the responding officers as he ran and the officer opened fire.

During the exchange of gunfire, Diaz was shot three times.

The second suspect fled into the bush in the Castle Coakley area and remained at large as of Wednesday afternoon.

According to a police statement following the robbery, two adults and a child were inside the business when it was robbed, but they were not injured.

Police said one of the employees was in the store when two gunmen came in wearing masks and brandishing firearms. The employee told police, they ordered the workers to open the safe and give them all of the money and the keys to their vehicles. As the workers complied, the men also took two backpacks, which contained laptop computers and a cellular phone, before leaving the establishment with several thousand dollars, according to police.

Police said they are following leads regarding the location of the second suspect.

Anyone with information about the robbery or the persons involved can call 911 or the confidential tip line at Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222-8477.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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