A tense situation unfolding around midnight Wednesday at a St. Thomas convenience store saw relief when two police officers came upon the scene. Now one of three men spotted at the store is under arrest, charged with having an unlicensed firearm.
A few hours after the arrest of Willie Gatewood III, he appeared at a preliminary hearing in the Superior Court Magistrate’s Division
Details of Gatewood’s alleged offense were described in court documents and at the hearing by V.I. Police Officer Shawn Greenaway. Assistant Attorney General Brenda Scales asked the officer why he stopped the defendant and two others early Wednesday morning on 6th Avenue in Sugar Estate.
Greenaway said he and a fellow officer had stopped by a convenience store shortly after midnight and saw three males, dressed in black, milling about. When the trio saw the uniformed officers, they stopped, according to a report filed by police.
The officer said an individual in the store told him the three men were acting suspiciously. Greenaway told the court he approached the men dressed in black and asked them how they were doing.
After a brief exchange, the officer said he and his partner left the store, got in their patrol car and circled the block, calling for more police presence. Another patrol officer approached the area, and informed Greenaway and his partner that the individuals spotted inside the convenience store were seen near St. Andrew’s Church on 6th Avenue.
Moments later, the first two officers on the scene encountered the three men for a second time. This time, the trio was ordered to put their hands up and face a wall. Two complied, Greenaway wrote in his report, but the third — later identified as Gatewood — did so slowly.
The officers conducted a search. When they came to Gatewood and asked if he had a weapon, the suspect said there was a knife in his pocket, Greenaway said. But as the search continued, officers came to a fanny pack worn around the suspect’s waist. Inside, they said, they found a 9 mm Taurus handgun and a magazine with seven bullets.
Court documents also said one bullet was found in the chamber of the handgun. Public Defender Thoron Corey Hodge called the incident a case involving an unreasonable search. But the assistant attorney general refuted that claim.
“All of the facts aren’t in or are not listed on the probable cause fact sheet,” Scales said.
The magistrate upheld the charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm and illegal possession of ammunition. Gatewood was ordered to appear at an arraignment hearing Nov. 11 and plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges.