Police officers seized a “large quantity” of cocaine and two boats following a violent marine chase early in the evening of July 19. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Police officers seized a “large quantity” of cocaine and two boats following a violent marine chase early in the evening of July 19, and they have now made several arrests and charged at least four people as part of their ongoing investigation into the incident, officials said.

Early the morning of July 22, however, one of the seized vessels was stolen from police custody and the other was set on fire.

Police Commissioner Mark Collins said during a press conference on July 20 that the two boats appeared to approach the Virgin Islands from the direction of Anguilla on July 19.

Marine police officers attempted to stop them near the east end of Tortola.

“On approach, one of the vessels attempted to evade capture and rammed the police vessel on numerous occasions, causing some damage to the vessel and some significant injuries to the officers on board,” Mr. Collins said.

Officers fired shots, and they eventually detained the two vessels, he said.

“At this stage, I can tell you a large quantity of what we believe to be controlled drugs have been recovered,” he added. “I don’t know the exact weight yet, because that’s still under investigation.”

Six or seven officers were injured during the chase, according to Mr. Collins. While many of the injuries were minor cuts and bruises, he said, three officers stayed overnight at the hospital.

He added that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

United States Customs and Border Protection officers assisted with the investigation, which also turned up a firearm on one of the boats, according to a press release from the Police Information Office. Subsequent land-based searches turned up a second firearm and a “significant amount of ammunition,” the release added.

Four arrests

As police investigated the incident last week, they arrested 38- year-old Dion Leslie McMaster, 40-year-old Zuri Reid, and 28- year-old Ruth Gonzalez Tellez, according to a July 22 press release from the PIO.

Mr. McMaster, of Brady Ghut, was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply to another, unlawful possession of a controlled drug, keeping an unlicensed firearm, and unlawful possession of a firearm. The two other suspects, both of Belle Vue, were charged with keeping an unlicensed firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, police said.

Police said on July 25 that 34-year-old Rico Penn, of Fat Hogs Bay, had been charged with the same four offences as Mr. McMaster.

Ms. Tellez was granted bail on July 25, while the other three suspects were remanded to prison, Police Information Officer Diane Drayton said the same day.

Police also said they arrested and released three other people “pending further investigations.”

Fire and theft

Early the morning of July 22, police said, criminals attempted to disrupt the investigation by stealing one of the seized boats and setting fire to the other.

“In the early hours of this morning, one seized vessel, suspected to be involved in ramming of the police vessel at sea, was set ablaze in a calculated effort to destroy evidence,” according to a July 22 press release. “Fortunately, all necessary examinations were completed by the [Royal VI Police Force], and no relevant evidence was destroyed by these actions.”

A later July 22 press release stated that “several people” had been arrested in connection with the theft and destruction of the boats, but it didn’t name them.

“The efforts to bring offenders to justice continue and will not be derailed by those who hope to escape detection and prosecution,” the press release added.

Anyone with information can contact the Intelligence Unit at 368-9339 or anonymously report it to Crime Stoppers at 800-8477.