V.I. Police Department dedicates Frederiksted bicycle unit substation in name of slain officer


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ST. CROIX - It has been almost 10 years since V.I. Police Officer Cuthbert Chapman was fatally wounded in a gunfight during a botched robbery at the Wendy's Restaurant in Sunny Isle Shopping Center, where Chapman was working off-duty as security.

On Tuesday, the department and community he served paused to remember him as the bicycle unit substation in Frederiksted was named in his honor.

Chapman was born on St. Kitts but moved to St. Croix when he was just 6 years old. He attended the Seventh-day Adventist School and Central High School before earning an electronic technology degree in Georgia.

His mother, Violet Chapman, said during Tuesday's ceremony that after multiple layoffs working in his field at Hess, he decided to join the police force in 1992.

She said she remembers her last conversation with her son just 12 short years later and never expected him to die because he was a fighter, and he stayed positive following the shooting.

She said while he had nine days before he succumbed to his injuries, it was at the hands of violent people and the violence continues in the community. She encouraged police officers and others in the community to report those who continue to carry out violent acts.

"There is no reason for all this violence and killing on our little 2-by-4 island. People know who doing these things, and you all need to speak up," she said. "It don't matter who it is, even your mother, turn her in."

She encouraged the officers to live right, saying there are no guarantees they will see tomorrow.

The naming of the station was made possible by Bill 29-0215 that was primarily sponsored by Sen. Terrence Nelson in October 2011. Nelson said Chapman was working that second job as a security officer because the police officer salary was not enough to make his ends meet. He said many other officers are in that same position and something has to change.

Sgt. Mark Corniero, who graduated from the police academy with Chapman in 1992, said Tuesday that Chapman was a motivator and served the community with respect. He said he never expected a loss like Chapman's to hit the class or the department and was grateful that with the naming of the substation, Chapman's memory could live on.

St. Croix Police Chief James Parris, Assistant Police Commissioner Thomas Hannah and Raymond Williams, on behalf of. Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis and Gov. John deJongh Jr., also gave remarks at the ceremony on Custom Street in front of the substation.

Four men - Reinaldo "Rey" Berrios Jr., 21; Felix "Bugsy" Cruz, 26; Troy "C Murder" Moore, 25; and Angel "Malungo" Rodriguez, 22 - were convicted in February 2007 of carrying out a crime spree the night of April 17, 2004, that included two carjackings, an attempted robbery and the robbery at Wendy's. They were sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole plus 92 years.

District Judge Raymond Finch sentenced the men after they were found guilty of first-degree murder; unauthorized possession of a firearm during a crime of violence; and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

The same jury also returned a guilty verdict for each of the men on federal charges of interference with commerce by threats or violence; carjacking; carrying a firearm during a violent crime; and causing the death of a person by using a firearm.

Prosecutors said that on the night of the crime spree, Berrios jumped over the counter in the restaurant and demanded money. Chapman, who was working off-duty as restaurant security, pointed his service weapon at Berrios and told him to freeze.

Moore and Cruz entered through a side door carrying semi-automatic weapons and fired shots at Chapman from behind, and Berrios also shot at Chapman. Rodriguez was the getaway driver.

Chapman, 45, was shot three times during the robbery and died of his wounds nine days later, at a hospital in Puerto Rico.

Based on information from a confidential informant, Berrios was arrested on May 10, 2004, and Moore was apprehended on June 9, 2004. FBI agents arrested Rodriguez on Dec. 6, 2005, in Fayetteville, N.C., and on June 5, 2006, the FBI arrested Cruz at a Sunrise, Fla., fast food restaurant.

In the four weeks of trial, jurors heard testimony from more than 40 witnesses, including a trace-evidence expert and a DNA expert, Wendy's employees and bystanders, the carjacking victims and relatives and associates of the defendants.

Chapman's oldest brother, Joseph Chapman, said he received some sense of closure the day the men were convicted and at their sentencings and he feels some satisfaction of the station being named in honor of his brother, but none of those things would bring him back.

"I try to get past it and embrace these positive events, but I can't help the tears from flowing cause he is gone for good," Joseph Chapman said. "A lot of our family is here to see it, and we are grateful for the honor, but we would give it all back to have my brother back with us."

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

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