A 22-year-old suspect has been charged in the shooting death of a teenage tourist in the U.S. Virgin Islands after turning himself in to the police, and more arrests are anticipated, a police spokeswoman told AOL News today.
Steven Tyson has been charged with the murder of 14-year-old Lizmarie Perez Chapparro, who had been visiting the popular Coki Beach in St. Thomas with her Puerto Rican parents and brother to mark her upcoming quinceanera, a coming-of-age ceremony similar to a Sweet 16 celebration.
Lizmarie was on an open-air tour bus when she was caught in a gunfight on Monday that also killed a St. Thomas teenager who was attending a funeral, according to police.
The public information officer for the Virgin Islands Police Department, Melody Rames, told AOL News that the killing of 18-year-old Shahid Joseph, for which Tyson was also charged, was “suspected to have been a revenge killing.”
She declined to label the gunfight “as gang-related,” but a report by the Virgin Islands Daily News referred to the incident as “a gun battle between gang factions.” It quoted Police Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr. as telling reporters at the scene that someone in a red Honda Civic opened fire on a person at the funeral, and that the automobile was in turn extensively damaged, with bullet holes in its right side and bumper.
Tyson, who is being held on bail, is said to have been the driver of the Honda.
Rames added that although there was no official confirmation so far of what prompted the shooting, Francis “has said several times that criminal elements have frequently used large gatherings to exact revenge on people they believe have wronged them in some way.”
The girl and her parents, who were marking their wedding anniversary, arrived at St. Thomas aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship that left Sunday from Puerto Rico on a seven-day cruise. In a statement, Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz described the killing as an “unfathomable act of senseless violence.”
The Puerto Rican family was not on a cruise-sponsored shore trip, but a Carnival spokeswoman told AOL News that the company’s suspension of excursions to the Coki Beach area enacted after the killing was still in force and would be continued “until further notice.”
The Virgin Islands police and tourism officials described the incident as isolated and said the Virgin Islands remain safe for tourists, a McClatchy newspapers report said.
According to St. John Source, a locally based online newspaper, the girl’s shooting “pulls the territory’s homicide count up to 44 for the year,” a total that would include the islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. The paper maintains what is says is a list of homicides in each of the islands, and posts them on its site.
Rames also referred to Monday’s shooting as an “isolated incident” and said the total number of homicides for all three islands would include killings as a result of domestic violence.
Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh Jr., however, referred to a “trend of senseless killings by some of our young people” in a statement soon after the shooting.
“What we are experiencing today is the result of many years of neglect, which we can no longer tolerate,” the governor said.
“Everyone must rise up against those who continue to wage violent crime on our streets. We must offer them no aid, no protection, no cover and no mercy. We must close ranks against those who respect neither life nor law.”