ST. THOMAS — A driver in a fatal hit-and-run crash Sunday told investigators that he was afraid to stop because he knows the bars in the Brookman Road area are frequented by drunk people with guns, and he feared for his safety, according to an affidavit filed by the V.I. Police Department.
Rafael Ledesma German 31, of Nye Nordsidevej, turned himself in to police at 3:25 p.m. Tuesday and was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, which carries a maximum possible prison sentence of five years, and a $1,000 fine. He also was charged with operating a vehicle without a valid license, which carries a maximum fine of $75.
The incident occurred just before 11 p.m., when officers responded to a report that a pedestrian had been struck by a maroon Acura sport utility vehicle in the area of the concrete plant, according to an affidavit filed by police.
The pedestrian was transported to Schneider Hospital via ambulance for treatment, but succumbed to his injuries at 11:43 p.m., according to police.
The victim was identified as 37-year-old Royson JnoBaptiste.
The driver of the vehicle did not stop, and police reviewed surveillance video from the area to try to piece together the series of events.
Footage obtained from Irma Maria Bar and Restaurant on Monday showed JnoBaptiste walking from the parking area of Jamz Nightclub, and passed behind a double-parked vehicle.
Baptiste continued walking northward onto the westbound lane of Turpentine Run Road. German’s SUV was traveling eastbound in the opposite lane when JnoBaptiste ran into its path. The vehicle struck JnoBaptiste, “causing him to become airborne and subsequently launched eastward before landing back on the roadway,” police said. “The SUV continued heading east and left the scene.”
After turning himself in, German agreed to an interview with police, and acknowledged that he was the driver of the Acura SUV involved in the incident.
He also admitted to leaving the scene without checking on the victim’s condition, police said.
“I left because I was afraid. I know people here have guns and they were drinking,” German said, according to the police affidavit.
After posting $7,500 cash bail, German was released from jail and appeared in court for his advice-of-rights hearing Friday, alongside his defense attorney Treston Moore.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, German is living in the Virgin Islands on a valid work visa, and is employed as a construction worker, Moore said.
Police Officer Quiozel Francis told Magistrate Judge Henry Carr III that German’s attorney had advised him not to provide the license plate number and location of the vehicle he was driving at the time of the fatal crash, which is a crucial piece of evidence necessary to complete the investigation.
Moore said his client was willing to provide that information and would arrange for police to recover the vehicle so they could process it as evidence in the case.
Carr said German is not a flight risk or danger to the community, and he did not increase his bail amount.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. mentioned JnoBaptiste’s death during Monday’s press briefing, and said that the area’s busy bar scene along Brookman Road has been causing headaches for law enforcement.
“That’s a place where we constantly have to go out and use the COVID Task Force to break that up, so we’re going to continue to do that,” Bryan said.