St. Croix police recover Sen. Capehart's stolen vehicle Thursday


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ST. CROIX - Police on patrol recovered Sen. Diane Capehart's Jeep, which two armed men carjacked from her on Monday, and also recovered a stolen vehicle minutes after it was taken at an Estate Hogensborg service station.

Officers recovered Capehart's blue 2013 Jeep Wrangler on Thursday, but V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said Friday she would not release any information about where the vehicle was found. However, Rames did say that the vehicle was intact and was not damaged.

"Police investigators are still currently investigating the matter, so that is all that I will say on that, right now," she said. "They are going to process it for evidence that will hopefully help the case."

According to the preliminary report to police, Capehart and her friend had been out about 8:15 p.m. Monday putting up campaign posters in the Hannah's Rest area in Frederiksted as part of her campaign for re-election when they were approached by at least two gunmen who demanded their valuables.

After taking their cellular telephones and an undisclosed amount of cash, the robbers made their getaway in Capehart's Jeep. The robbers stopped to pick up three more people who were hiding in bushes a few feet up the road before driving off to the east, police said.

Rames said quick response and aggressive patrolling by police Friday afternoon also allowed them to assist another motorist with recovering her vehicle minutes after it was stolen.

Just after 1 p.m. Friday, a woman reported that she was putting gas in her vehicle at Queen Bee Services Station when an unknown individual jumped in and drove off with the car, Rames said. The thief drove the woman's red Ford Explorer onto Melvin Evans Highway and headed east, Rames said.

The woman and witnesses at the gas station contacted 911 to report the incident, and an all-points-bulletin was issued out for all law enforcement officers, according to Rames.

An officer spotted the vehicle on the highway and tried to execute a traffic stop, but the driver did not stop and a chase ensued, Rames said.

During the course of the chase, the vehicle collided with another vehicle in the vicinity of Estate Paradise, Rames said. There were no injuries and police were able to detain 21-year-old Michael Banwaree, she said.

Banwaree was arrested and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle and is being held at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility pending an advice-of-rights hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. today in V.I. Superior Court.

Rames said with the increase of these types of incidents, motorists are reminded to be aware of their surroundings and to not leave themselves or their property vulnerable to theft. She said vehicles should never be left unsecured and unattended under any circumstance. "Sometimes people are putting in gas and leave the engine on or go into the store and leave the keys inside, and they should never do this," she said.

Following Capehart's robbery, Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. suspended all in-service training - despite the trainings being mandated by a federal consent decree - and ordered more officers to patrol the streets territory-wide. The commissioner also lifted overtime restrictions currently in place and ordered "results and productivity" for the time worked.

He defended his actions to make changes at that point, saying that the moves were not made because Capehart is a senator. He said putting more men on the street will help the overall welfare of all the residents and create a safer community.

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

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