ST. THOMAS — A 24-year-old St. Thomas man with no criminal history is facing serious charges after police say they found illegal guns in his apartment at Oswald Harris Court housing community.
E’Jaiey Grant was arrested Friday and charged with possession of a machine gun, possession of ammunition, and two counts of possession of a firearm. Unable to post $50,000 bail, he was jailed until his advice-of-rights hearing Monday.
The case began at about 11:30 p.m. Thursday as a detective was searching for a vehicle involved in a carjacking in the area on July 8, according to the affidavit filed by V.I. Police.
The detective drove into Oswald Harris Court and “immediately tried to radio for back-up assistance, but his radio unit was malfunctioning,” according to the affidavit.
Looking in his rear-view mirror, the detective saw a man firing a gun. As he began to get out of his vehicle to challenge the gunman, the detective “heard additional gun shots being fired from an automatic weapon on the driver’s side of his vehicle.”
The detective retreated, quickly closing his vehicle’s door. As he drove out of Oswald Harris Court, the gunman “kept shooting at him and striking his vehicle,” according to the affidavit.
Central Dispatch received a call reporting the gunfire at 11:45 p.m., and officers traveled to the scene to collect and process evidence.
Police received a tip identifying the apartment that two shooters had run into, and on Friday, police contacted the V.I. Housing Authority and obtained a copy of a “Notice to Quit” for the occupants, which had been served two days earlier on July 21.
With the notice, several members of the V.I. Police Department, the U.S. Marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went to the apartment and made contact with Grant, who refused to say whether anyone else was in the home, according to the affidavit.
Officers “conducted a protective sweep of the apartment for officer safety,” and “observed a Ziplock bag which contained one unspent cartridge in plain view on the floor of the apartment,” according to the affidavit. Police said they also found an empty black rifle magazine with a 30- to 40-round capacity on a nightstand, and a “black pistol rifle” was found under the bed.
At 5:50 p.m. Friday, Magistrate Judge Carolyn Hermon-Percell granted a search warrant via telephone, and police took Grant and the man who was in the apartment with him into custody to be interviewed.
Grant waived his right to remain silent and gave a recorded video statement in which “he confessed to being the owner of the two recovered firearms,” according to the affidavit. The other man has not been charged with a crime.
In court Monday, Territorial Public Defender Frederick Johnson said police had incorrectly charged Grant with possession of a machine gun.
A detective testified that a machine gun is capable of firing more than 12 times without reloading.
But Johnson argued the gun is not capable of firing multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger — which is required for a weapon to be defined as an automatic machine gun under the V.I. Code.
Hermon-Percell found probable cause for all charges filed by police.
Assistant V.I. Attorney General Brenda Scales asked for bail to remain as set.
Grant has no previous criminal history and has a certified nursing assistant license and is a year away from completing his requirements to be a licensed practical nurse. A lifelong Virgin Islands resident, Grant also has his own business reselling shoes, Johnson said.
Hermon-Percell acknowledged that it was Grant’s first arrest, but said he’s facing “significant” time behind bars for the firearm charges.
She maintained bail at $50,000, but said Grant may post 10% in cash, or $5,000, in order to be released from jail.