Two V.I. Water and Power Authority employees on St. Thomas are facing drug and gun charges after police say they were found in a vehicle in Estate Fortuna near where a man was found shot to death.
Cameron Francis, 30, and Robert Collins Jr., 34, were arrested Tuesday morning and each charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm, possession of ammunition, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of more than one ounce of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. They were also charged with constructive possession of a firearm, meaning a gun was found in an area both men had access to.
Unable to post $50,000 bail, Francis and Collins were jailed until their advice-of-rights hearing Wednesday morning before Magistrate Judge Henry Carr III.
The men were arrested after local and federal law enforcement officials responded to 911 calls about gunshots in Fortuna at 5:44 a.m., according to an affidavit filed by V.I. Police.
Officers searched behind a home and found a path through bushes which led to an unresponsive male who appeared to have been shot multiple times about the body, according to the affidavit.
Police said they will release the victim’s identity after notifying his next of kin.
Emergency medical technicians pronounced the man dead at the scene, and officers interviewed several area residents who said they heard multiple gunshots and a white or silver colored vehicle was observed leaving the area.
The police department’s Special Response Team, including Special Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, searched the path and area around where the body was found in an attempt to locate any evidence or persons that may have been involved in the shooting death of the unidentified man, according to the affidavit.
In the area just past Blue Water Bible College, a federal agent saw a white vehicle with two men sitting inside, “which heightened our suspicion,” according to the affidavit.
Officers ordered the men out of the vehicle and smelled “a strong odor of marijuana” and saw a glass jar that contained 1.36 ounces of marijuana on the back seat in plain view, according to the affidavit.
Police then searched the vehicle and found a 9-mm 30-round magazine containing 11 rounds in the glove compartment and two backpacks, according to the affidavit.
One of the backpacks contained a Glock 9-mm pistol with 17 rounds in the magazine, and the other backpack contained a laptop, scale and plastic baggies, with a second glass jar containing a small amount of marijuana, police said.
Both Francis, the driver, and his passenger Collins denied ownership of the gun and magazine.
Francis later “stated that he would take ownership of the firearm, marijuana and magazine,” according to the affidavit, but indicated that “he don’t want to because the items were not his, and that he will take ownership of the marijuana; however he is not the only person that has access to the vehicle.”
Francis would not say who else has access to the vehicle, which is registered to his deceased grandmother, police said.
In court Wednesday, Carr found probable cause for all charges and advised the men they’re facing lengthy prison sentences if convicted.
In asking for bail to remain as set, Assistant V.I. Attorney General Brenda Scales said Francis was convicted of unauthorized possession of a firearm in 2010 and pointed to the circumstances surrounding the arrests.
“They’re close to a dead body at 5:44 in Fortuna. There was a 911 call in regard to the hearing of gunshots and in their car is found a weapon with an extended magazine and ammunition,” Scales said. “This is not just a simple possession of firearms.It may end up being that, but at this point with all the circumstances surrounding it, we ask that the court grant the conditions that we request.”
The judge said both men may be released to the custody of third-party custodians with curfew and other conditions after posting 10% of the bail in cash, or $5,000. Collins may also be released if he posts property to secure the full $50,000, Carr said.