Aug. 31, 2001 — The latest rash of violence in the territory has Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and his top law-enforcement officers brainstorming how to curb the criminal element.
After a government function Thursday on St. Croix, Turnbull said he was scheduled to meet with Police Commissioner Franz Christian and other police officials to discuss a strategy to deal with a surge of violence in the community.
In June, police officer Lennox Lettsome was shot in the neck and back during a shootout at the Contant Car Wash on St. Thomas. Later that month, officer Wendell Williams disappeared on St. Croix. He is still missing, with only the burned hulk of his vehicle found. Two weeks ago, during a daring mid-day robbery on St. Thomas, a Finance Department peace officer was shot with his own gun and robbed as he was carrying two bags of money into the Chase Bank branch in Estate Thomas. And over the weekend, shots were fired at two police officers on St. Thomas after they stopped a vehicle for running a red light.
Also over the weekend, Kaunda Bryan, 25, the son of Sen. Adelbert Bryan, was fatally shot on St. Croix during an argument over an impromptu horse race. Then on Wednesday, three more men, two on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix, were critically wounded in gun-related incidents.
"We have to get a handle on this right away," Turnbull said, adding that the flow of illegal guns into the territory needs to be checked."We cannot permit a handful … of rebels to destroy this beautiful territory."
The governor said plans would be drawn up to combat the violence, but he declined to give any details in order not to tip the hand of police officials.
"We’re going to come up with a grand strategy … to beat the criminals," Turnbull said.
He said he would immediately sign a revised version of the Gun Control Act of 2001, a bill he vetoed recently because of what he termed a "Draconian" property seizure provision. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Emmett Hansen II, sought to increase the fine for illegal gun possession from $1,000 to $5,000 and imprisonment from two years to five years maximum. Second offenses would go from a fine of $2,000 to $10,000 and imprisonment of not more than 15 years.
If an illegal firearm were carried by a felon or used in a crime of violence, the fine would go from $10,000 to $25,000, with imprisonment from 15 to 20 years. A machine gun used in a violent crime would bring a fine $50,000, up from $12,000, with 20 years' imprisonment.
Turnbull vetoed the bill because of its property seizure provision. It called for real property to be seized if any illegal, unauthorized or unlicensed firearm or ammunition was found to have been "stored, concealed or housed with the knowledge, consent or privity of the owner(s), or where through the exercise of due diligence the owner(s) should have known" of its being there.
"We’re going to work on that and remove it so an innocent person won’t suffer," Turnbull said, "Remove that and I will sign the bill the moment it comes to my desk."
Turnbull dismissed a call by Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II earlier this week for the creation of an anti-violence crime task force, which James said he wanted to chair. The governor said a task force already exists.


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