BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Yesterday, Commissioner of Police, Ian M. Queeley issued a statement describing the events that led up to an St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force officer being injured and fugitive Vincent Taylor being killed. His statement appears here:
“Citizens and residents of this great nation, on Saturday Aug. 18, at around 1 a.m., Sergeant Leon Powell was shot and killed by armed masked men during a robbery at his business place in Newton Ground.
“Today, exactly two weeks after I addressed you on the circumstances surrounding his death, I am here again to update you on the progress of the investigation.
“You will recall, I indicated that the fugitive wanted for an armed robbery in Sandy Point in December 2017, Vincent Taylor, was also a person of interest in the investigation. I also mentioned that a special team was put together to locate him by the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force and the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force.
“As the investigation unfolded and more information became available, he became the prime suspect. This, of course, caused our efforts to be intensified. We began lobbying for more public assistance and employed all the resources available to us.
“On Aug. 31, members of that Special Joint Team were in Sandy Point conducting a search operation for the wanted man. Acting on information, the team cordoned off an area in Bouncing Hill, which had several premises within the cordon and proceeded to search the area.
“On the particular premises where he was located, permission was sought from the owner to enter the premises and, once granted, the Security Forces proceeded. While searching the premises Taylor was spotted and, without hesitation, he opened fire on the officers. They returned fire. One Officer was shot and injured. He is currently warded at the JNF General Hospital in stable condition with a good prognosis. Vincent Taylor was shot multiple times about his body and died at the scene.
“Investigators from the Violent Crimes Unit commenced their investigations and Technicians from the Forensic Services Unit visited and processed the scene. I have been advised that according to our records, the pistol used by Vincent Taylor to shoot at and injure our Officer was the department firearm issued to our fallen colleague Sergeant Leon Powell. It was reported that he was relieved of his firearm by his attackers at the time of his death.
“As I speak to you, the ballistics work carried out on the bullets and other shell casings found at the scenes has just been completed. The results indicate that it was his weapon that he was relieved of that was used to kill him. Taylor, at the time of his death, was carrying a back pack that contained a mask, a pair of gloves, tie straps and a knife. These are currently in Police custody as we believe that they are of some evidential value to the investigation. Also, the premises we believe he had been occupying was also searched and other items of evidential value were taken into custody from that scene as well.
“I must commend the persons who have been working behind the scenes in the various departments on these cases. Our Officers and technicians have been exerting commendable effort with the limited resources at their disposal given the recent gun related incidents that they are currently dealing with.
“Despite their efforts, there has been a lot of speculation and criticisms levelled at the Police from all directions where Vincent Taylor is concerned and in relation to other recent incidents. But it is important that the public have confidence and trust the Police to do its work. We know what information to share and when to share it. It might be held back to prevent the investigation from being jeopardised, to prevent our Officers from being compromised or to even protect persons involved in the case – whether they are a victim or assisting with investigations. Sometimes it is also necessary to dig a little deeper before releasing information, instead of doing so hastily.
“We are trained in investigative procedures, have had the requisite tactical training and have trained Police prosecutors, to mention a few. There is more work going on than meets the eye and we cannot show all our cards, and so it is important for the public to trust us and leave policing to the Police.
“I know the members of the media can confirm that a Wanted Poster was first issued for Vincent Taylor in January of this year. It was shared with every media house in the Federation, as well as overseas-based media entities with ties to St. Kitts and Nevis. It was also shared with our neighbouring forces, and it was also posted on the Police Facebook page.
“We had warned, since the initial Wanted Poster was issued in January, that Vincent Taylor was considered armed and dangerous. The Poster was subsequently re-issued sometime later and again not too long ago. Initially, he was facing armed robbery charges. We have evidence that he was involved in the armed robbery of a supermarket in Sandy Point, as well as other armed robberies that have taken place in Division “B”.
“I must also acknowledge the members of the public who have come forward in an overwhelming way to offer support and have carried out their civil duties by assisting the Police in this matter. We would not have found him without your help. You have given the Police renewed hope – hope that there are still many who are on the side of law and order.
“I must stress that members of the public need to decide what kind of community you want to live in. How much are you willing to share your communities with criminals? I say this because it is important to note that while there were those coming to the assistance of the Police to help find the fugitive, there were also those who were helping him evade the Police.
“The community he was found in is a close-knit, well-populated community. We know that there are persons who would have seen him and said nothing, and that there are those who were harbouring him – feeding him, providing shelter, assisting him with traveling, etc.
“Allow me to remind everyone that harbouring a fugitive is criminal offence and we are looking into who we can lay such charges against in this matter. Helping him means that you were willing to see another establishment get robbed at gunpoint or another individual hurt. Helping him and other criminals makes you a criminal as well. We should all be on duty!!!
“Having said that, I reflect on the Police Officer who is currently preparing to undergo surgery. He is being treated for a gunshot injury to his shoulder and, thank God, is listed as being in a stable condition. He knew the dangers involved in the operation and the dangerous nature of the fugitive. As a result, he and others went where many people are not willing to go and did what many are not willing to do.
“The members of this special team are true heroes – brave, selfless, fearless and protectors of peace and justice. I want to offer the highest commendations to the Officers and Soldiers who were involved in the operation on Friday. You have made your country proud. We are indebted to you in a way that we can only attempt to show with material things because your contribution to national security and law and order are invaluable.
“To the Officer currently awaiting surgery, I salute you sir. Even at the time I visited you at the hospital, you were in high spirits and your eyes were still filled with determination. Stay strong as we continue to pray for your speedy recovery. To the family of the injured officer we wish to assure you that you have the fullest support of the organization and the Ministry of National Security during this difficult period on his way to full recovery.
“To the family and friends of the late Sgt. Powell, I said to you on the day of his death that we will spare no efforts to find his killer and today I am confident that we have done so. I would also like to commend the Divisional Commander for Division “B.” We know you have several challenges in the area, but you have been putting in a lot of work and have provided strong leadership for the men and women under your command.
“Together we can build a better nation – one that is safe to live, work, raise a family and do business in. God bless St. Kitts and Nevis and God bless the men and women of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force and the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force.”