Police are crediting the community with helping them quickly make an arrest in a Saturday afternoon slaying at Home Depot on St. Thomas.
At 4:11 p.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center received multiple reports of shots fired and a woman down in the parking lot of the Donoe home improvement store, according to V.I. Police Commissioner nominee Ray Martinez.
Photos of the crime circulated on social media in the hours after the shooting, the young victim, identified by police as 20-year-old Keoner Baron, slumped across a curb in the shade of a tree with an onlooker seemingly distraught standing over her.
Baron, who was shot multiple times, was transported by ambulance to Schneider Hospital where she died of her injuries, according to Martinez.
By 6:16 p.m. Saturday, V.I. Police patrol officers and detectives were “able to detain a suspect into custody for questioning,” Martinez said.
And, just more than 24 hours later, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, police charged 23-year-old Justin Matthews with first-degree murder, Martinez said.
“The team did an awesome job and we thank all the witnesses who remained on the scene,” he said, repeatedly giving credit to witnesses for their “tremendous help” in making the arrest.
“This is the perfect example of the community working with the VIPD that provided us with substantive information to make a quick apprehension,” Martinez said.
Witnesses were able to provide police with a description of the shooter and vehicle.
In order to encourage residents to come forward with information about crimes, the V.I. government is in the process of implementing a $1 million reward fund.
Last week, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said $50,000 will be awarded for any information that leads to the arrest of a homicide suspect, and $25,000 will be awarded for any information that leads to the arrest of an armed robbery suspect.
While similar in concept, the Crime Stoppers U.S. Virgin Islands tip line only offers rewards of up to $2,500, according to the organization’s website.
While police were not ready to publicly ascribe a motive to Matthews’ actions Sunday, Daily News records indicate he was arrested in June 2020 on allegations that he stalked and harassed a woman over several months. A pre-trial conference in the case is scheduled for Oct. 6.
Matthews is currently being held by the Corrections Bureau pending his advice of rights hearing.
So far this year, there have been 31 confirmed homicides in the Virgin Islands, 23 on St. Croix, seven on St. Thomas and one on St. John.
Police have yet to announce if the death of Lucy Lindquist, 56, has been determined to be a homicide. Found on Aug. 20 in a car in Vista Concordia on St. Croix, police said she appears to have been stabbed multiple times.
While an arrest has been made, St. Thomas-St. John Chief of Police Barrington Thomas Sr. asked anyone with information about this homicide to call 911, the Major Crime Unit at 340-715-5554, or Crime Stoppers USVI at 800-222-8477.