PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor on Wednesday did not find attempted manslaughter or mistreatment with a weapon proven in the case of a 30-year-old man suspected of involvement in the April 22 shootout at Maho Reef’s parking lot close to Platinum Room nightclub. In considering self-defence proven, the Prosecutor called for a conviction of the possession of two illegal firearms and ammunition.
For this crime, the Prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of 20 months, six of which were to be suspended, on three years’ probation, as well as the destruction of the weapon and ammunition. The Judge will give his decision in this case on July 19.
The shootout, which was captured on two video-surveillance cameras, involved four men: two persons who were described as “Rasta men,” and suspect H.S.L.C. and his friend.
The four seemingly started an argument, according to L., about a girl he had met earlier that night, which resulted in the shootout, in which no one was injured.
“I know it sounds incredible, but it is true,” the defendant said with a smile. At least four cars were damaged in the shootout.
L. was arrested 4 days later. A firearm was found in his car and a case with ammunition at his home, but not the firearm that was used in the shooting, according to research carried out by Netherlands Forensic Institute NFI.
Questioned about the firearm, L. told the Judge that he had received the gun from a friend, who had left to the U.S. Virgin Islands. He said he was threatened and carried the gun for his protection. He also brought the weapon with him in a paper sack when he went to work at a local security company. That night in April, he also had the gun with him, carrying it in the waistband of his pants.
The true state of affairs, considering the shootout, remained unclear. One of the “Rasta men” was identified as A.K, the bodyguard of one of two men who were gunned down at a carwash on Candelabra Cactus Drive in Sucker Garden on March 14. The shooting cost the life of Rondell Thewett, also known as “Nino Brown.”
C. told the Judge he had no idea why the Rasta men blocked the car in which he was driving together with his friend R. They didn’t speak to him, and only told him not to move, L. said.
At approximately 7:45pm, A.K. started to shoot. He fired two shots, after which he reloaded his gun.
L. said he responded in self-defence, firing a shot in the air because A.K. was using his friend as a shield. According to the images, however, his friend ducked away between two cars.
After firing the second shot, A.K. ran away and fired a couple more shots at L.’s car. A.K. tried to kill his friend R., L. said. Therefore, he fired in the direction of the fleeing men “to make sure they would not return,” he said at his trial.
The Judge asked the defendant what he was looking for in the Rasta men’s car. L. said he was looking for the keys, which he gave to R. to remove the vehicle. The camera images show L. handing over something to R., but it is remained unclear what it was.
The Judge said he found it a “strange” story. It was also not very helpful that neither A.K. nor R. had provided much clarity about this case.
According to the Prosecutor, it could be derived from the camera images that L. is an experienced gunman, but L. denied this. “I was nervous. I cannot shoot…Everybody knows that I’m not a delinquent, I only tried to save his [friend’s – Ed’] life,” he said.
L. is an undocumented resident of the island, who was born in the Dominican Republic. He lost his job after his arrest.
The Prosecutor said the defendant had fired shots in an entertainment area on a Saturday night. ”It is a miracle that no one was hit by bullets,” he said in finding it proven that the defendant had committed attempted manslaughter in firing several shots at short range. However, considering the fact that the defendant had acted in self-defence, he found the defendant not punishable.
Attorney-at-law Shaira Bommel agreed with the Prosecutor where it concerned the acquittal of manslaughter. She presented self-defence pleadings and pleaded with the Court for a lesser sentence, refuting the Prosecutor’s statement that her client allegedly had a second gun in his possession.
She said her client, who is a first offender and had tried to avoid a confrontation with the Rasta men on three occasions, should be given a milder sentence. She recommended a prison term equal to L.’s pre-trial detention, with a conditional sentence.