Two men were killed early Saturday morning after being gunned down near the BVI Red Cross building in Road Town, police confirmed.
Michael Stevens, 26, and Clevaughn Sweeney, 24, both of Huntums Ghut, were allegedly shot during a drive-by shooting around 4 a.m. only a short distance from the Road Town Police Station.
Initial investigations suggest the duo were fired upon from James Walter Francis Drive while driving west, before the rental vehicle they were inside came to a stop by the 1780 Lower Estate Sugar Works Museum, police reported.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said the victims were seen at Crystals Nightclub earlier on Saturday morning, where about 300 other people were also in attendance. After they left the club, it is unclear where they went.
Shortly after the shooting, police cordoned off a large swath of Station Road to begin investigations.
Several detectives from the United Kingdom — who were recently brought to the territory to assist in outstanding murder investigations — are reportedly assisting local officers on the case.
As news of the double murder spread over the weekend, public officials came forward to denounce the crime and urge residents to provide information about the assailants.
Despite a recent injection of funds from the United Kingdom government to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie said lack of adequate funding for the force could damage the territory’s tourism product and overall security.
“We cannot continue to be reactive to crime in the BVI but rather proactive,” he said in a statement. “Post-Hurricane Irma has unmasked a few weak areas in our national security that needs urgent review and attention through adequate funding, among other immediate measures.”
The First District representative called for more cameras to be installed around Tortola, more-timely stop-and-search operations, and an increase in armed officers accompanying unarmed officers.
But Deputy Police Commissioner Alwin James said armed patrols aren’t enough to stop every crime.
“Mobile armed patrols, who were on duty, responded to the scene immediately following the incident, but the victims were dead,” he said. “It is more important for us in this fight to seize firearms, and take them off the streets and out of the hand of persons whose quick, hot tempers can, with little provocation, result in the death of another person.”
Premier Dr. Orlando Smith also condemned the killings.
“I want to make this equivocally clear: The British Virgin Islands is no place for crime. I have zero tolerance for it and the community should have zero tolerance as well,” he said.
“Please contact the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force [with any information]. Remember, we are working together to build the BVI stronger and better, and incidents such as these will only undermine our efforts.”
The Saturday murders are the first of 2018, but follow a spate of gun-related deaths last year. Ten people in total were killed in 2017, compared to roughly two to four killings that typically take place in the territory annually. The last particularly deadly year was 2008, when nine people allegedly were murdered.
Police are asking members of the public to contact the Major Crime Team at 368-9342 if they saw Messrs. Sweeney and Stevens being followed from the nightclub or pursued on the highway.
To report information about the location of illegal firearms, contact the RVIPF Intelligence Unit at 368-9339.