At a press conference held at the Public Relations Office at Police Headquarters, on Thursday June 27th, high ranking Officers met with the media to discuss matters of interest to the general public. Present at the conference were the Commissioner of Police, Severin Monchery; Milton Desir, Deputy Commissioner of Police and Wayne Charlery, Assistant Commissioner of Police with responsibility for Crime Management.
Monchery began by saying, “Based on recent events and the number of questions asked and concerns raised, I found it necessary to have this press conference this morning. For us to continue to be a professional policing service we ought to be transparent and accountable.” Most of the questions posed by the press were related to the deaths of Kimberly De Leon, who was fatally shot at her residence in October 2018, and seventeen-year-old Arnold Jonah Joseph, who was fatally shot by police in May 2019.
In relation to the traffic violation charges connected to the death of Arnold Joseph, reporters were curious that no gun related charges had been filed despite the fact that a firearm was reported to have been recovered from the scene of the incident. Wayne Charlery started off by expressing condolences to the family of the deceased. He began, “We sympathise with the deceased’s family; one death is one too many. Traffic charges were placed on the individuals, however, we could not charge on the firearm that would have been found since there was insufficient evidence to link that firearm at the time to the individuals. –And under the circumstances we had a deceased person on the vehicle, so the circumstances presenting itself was a bit complex but the investigations are ongoing; all related samples have been collected and are undergoing examination from the forensics lab perspective. In the future we will update you as we go along but we’re hopeful that we can make a determination as soon as possible in reference to that firearm.”
It was declared by Officer Charlery that the firearm in question was not recovered from inside the vehicle, but was found on the scene outside the vehicle by officers attached to the Crime Scene Unit. When the question was put to Officer Charlery regarding the likelihood of future gun-related charges in connection with the incident, he replied, “If the investigation process determines that [gun charges], then certainly. We are allowing the investigation to take its due course and from the results that would come, then we would make a determination based on these results to be as unbiased as possible.”
As it pertained to whether or not there were reports that police had been shot at during the incident, Officer Charlery commented, “I have no information where the police were fired upon during that situation… Let’s just be impartial and allow the investigation to take its course.”
The Officers involved in the incident related to the death of Arnold Joseph were reported to be on active duty and assisting the Major Crimes Unit in conducting investigations. No police officers have been suspended in relation to this incident. The question of suspension surfaced in reference to calls by various members of the family of Arnold Joseph for the suspension of Officers involved in the incident leading up to his death. In response to Arnold’s family Officer Charlery added, “Again I sympathise with your loss; it is a grievous loss and I may not understand your pain but I do sympathise. However… we are investigating and we have to be as impartial as possible. We have not reached a stage in the investigation process as yet to determine whether they should not be on active duty.” Officer Charlery emphasised that investigations take time in order to be executed effectively. On that note he remarked, “We’re taking our time to do things properly and we would appreciate the public’s support, and at least their understanding in that regard.”
While the police are taking their time to do things, Mary Williams, mother of the late Kimberly De Leon, has expressed her disappointment with the manner in which the investigation into her daughter’s murder is being handled. The family of the late Arnold Joseph have also voiced their disappointment in the police. They held a vigil for Arnold Joseph to express their grief for the loss of his life, and their protestation against the manner in which it was taken.
Certain members of the public including Human Rights Lawyer, Mary Francis and Alison Jean, mother of Botham Jean, have pleaded for independent investigations into deaths resulting from police shootings. So far as calls for independent investigations go, Severin Monchery remarked, “I have every confidence in the competence of my police officers that we can investigate matters. However, I will be the first to welcome any independent investigation not because I believe my men cannot do it, but if it is what members of the public are calling for, and if it will assist in any way I will support it.” The Commissioner of Police also stated that the police can only provide information after they have received it. He said that it is better for the police to wait and acquire sufficient information in order to fully brief the press rather than call a press conference in which only little information can be given.
On that note, an update on the investigation into the murder of Kimberly was requested. Charlery announced, “The Kimberly De Leon homicide has been comprehensively investigated. Presently the investigative processes are at a stage where very soon we believe that we can engage the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] for advice on the way forward in reference to the evidence we have collated.” Charlery declared that the investigation file for the homicide of Kimberly De Leon was currently in the possession of the Police. He said that every investigation has a life of its own, and that evidence and leads can only be assessed as they turn up. He went further to add, “You must understand that eventually this investigation process will be examined in a court of law, and we want to give that its best chance, not just from a prosecutorial end, but from the defendant’s end to ensure that their rights are protected. So we have to do things properly.”
Charlery expressed full confidence in the competence of local Police. In relation to this he remarked, “The detectives at CID and all the other units under the Crime Management Division give a thousand percent every day in reference to investigating their matters. Their duties encompass going to court on their off days and coming to various investigations on their off days; that is why I say a thousand percent.”
To this the Police Commissioner added, “Our role is always to ensure that we maintain law and order in Saint Lucia and we will continue to do that.” Monchery concluded the press conference by addressing the media by saying, “I think sometimes it would appear that you are being very critical of the police; however, that is something we do appreciate because from this criticism we can do our analysis, our assessment and improve what is happening within the Royal St Lucia Police Force. I also want to take the opportunity to thank the members of the public; some of them have cooperated with us very well and they have provided information. Some of them have been very critical, but this criticism like I said, we’ve been able to see through it and take positives from it.”
He expressed gratitude for hardworking officers and ended with a stern warning for members of the RSLPF: “If you act professionally you will have my support at all times. However, if you go against the law then do not expect me to support you in doing anything contrary to law.”