A Florida man was arrested early Thursday morning on suspicion of illegally hunting deer on St. Croix, according to V.I. Superior Court records.
The case began when officers responded to a report of gunshots in Estate South Slob, Christiansted, and found a man named Craig Weissinger working on his vehicle, according to a probable cause fact sheet filed by V.I. police.
Weissinger said he got a flat tire, and that he’d heard gunshots but they were “closer to the casino,” according to the fact sheet.
Officers drove off to interview the 911 caller, who said a suspicious vehicle had been parked near his home, and sped off when he went outside to investigate. The man said he’d managed to glimpse three of the vehicle’s license plate numbers as it drove off, and heard gunshots a short time later, after which he called police, according to the fact sheet.
The officers drove back to Weissinger’s vehicle and found that the numbers matched those seen by the 911 caller, according to the fact sheet.
He denied having a firearm and consented to a search of his vehicle, and officers said they found two live rounds on the front passenger seat. In the trunk, the officers found a 20-gauge shotgun with a five more rounds, including one in the chamber, according to the fact sheet.
Weissinger told police he did not have a Virgin Islands firearm license, had traveled from Florida on a sailboat, and picked up the shotgun from a friend while at sea between St. Thomas and St. Croix, according to the fact sheet.
He also told police he’d shot two deer on Tuesday night, which he had in a cooler near the vehicle, according to the fact sheet.
Weissinger was held on $25,000 bond — half the amount it should have been had officers followed the chart of mandated bail amounts for various offenses.
At Weissinger’s advice-of-rights hearing Friday, Magistrate Judge Ernest Morris Jr. pointed out that another man arrested and charged with illegal firearm possession only hours later was given an appropriate bond of $50,000, and said police “have no authority” to set their own bail amounts.
“If it happens again, I’m going to hold the Virgin Islands Police Department in contempt of court,” Morris warned.
Territorial Public Defender Leslie Davis said Weissinger arrived on March 17 and is “kind of stuck here right now” because of the pandemic, and his one contact on St. Croix is leaving for work in Alaska in a few weeks.
Assistant V.I. Attorney General Vanessa Hewitt-Quinland said Weissinger is wanted in Florida, and officers are working to obtain the warrant in that case.
Morris set bond at $50,000 and said Weissinger can only be released from jail while he awaits trial if he lives with a suitable third-party custodian under electronic monitoring.