Witness to 2013 murder slain

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ST. THOMAS - A 21-year-old man who was a key witness in a 2013 murder trial was shot and killed late Saturday night, according to V.I. Police.

Police found Shaquille Alexander Percell unresponsive at 10:13 p.m. Saturday, his body riddled with bullets and still seated in a chair near the back of Building 8 of the Kirwan Terrace housing community on St. Thomas.

Police, who initially were responding to reports of shots fired in the housing community, said that Percell may have been approached and shot by more than one assailant.

No suspects had been identified as of Sunday night, police said, though they are investigating the incident.

In September 2013, Percell was the main witness in the murder trial of Dyhani Heyliger, who was 23 when he shot and killed Keith Dawson Jr. on Dec. 8, 2012, in front of the Metropolis Nightclub.

Dawson was 22 and a distant cousin of Heyliger's, according to testimony from Dawson's father, Keith Dawson Sr., during Heyliger's trial. A jury later found Heyliger guilty of both first- and second-degree murder, for which he received a mandatory life imprisonment sentence.

During the trial, Percell testified against Heyliger, explaining that Heyliger had intended to kill, not Dawson, but Percell.

When U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents initially arrested Heyliger trying to board a plane to leave the territory, Heyliger told police in a video recorded statement that he had wanted to target or "scare" Percell.

Heyliger told police that he had been at the location at the time of the incident, and he had drawn his gun and fired shots toward Percell.

Heyliger also said that he had realized just after the incident that he had shot and killed someone, though he was not sure who, according to his statement to police.

He had cried, Heyliger said in his statement, and told family members about what happened.

Heyliger never testified during his trial, though, and his attorney, Clive Rivers, said Heyliger acted in self-defense.

However, video surveillance from the scene of the crime showed Percell in the moments before and during the shootout. The video showed that Percell shot second, returning fire from another source.

It also showed that Percell was firing shots to the west, in the direction where an eyewitness had identified Heyliger.

Percell was arrested in February 2013 on charges of illegal discharge of a weapon, possession of a firearm during a commission of a crime of violence, possession of an unlicensed firearm and reckless endangerment in connection with the same incident.

Court records relating to the status of Percell's case were not available Sunday night.

There have been 27 homicides reported in the territory this year. In 2014, St. Croix has had a total of 12 homicides, including two vehicular homicides, while there have been 14 homicides on St. Thomas and one on St. John.

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