Philipsburg:--- Several members of the Zero Tolerance Team, mainly Giovanni Sprott chased all photo journalists that were waiting outside the Court of First Instance on Friday to take photo shots of murder suspect Robert Reid. Officer Lexus went as far as ordering the owners of Kangaroo Court to close their doors while the suspect was being transported to the Court House. Kangaroo Court lost over two hours of business as the officers outside of the Court House prevented the business owner from reopening her doors.
Reporters and photo journalists that were standing on private property across from the Court House were ordered to get off the property as the police officers who were on the scene did not want reporters to take shots of Reid whose face and hands are burnt.
While St. Maarten has recorded its 11th murder for the year, with only three of them solved so far, the police seems to be more interested in protecting a man who is suspected of killing and burning his 13 year old daughter, rather than finding the persons responsible for the brutal murders. The actions of the police on Friday led members of the public to believe that the suspect has friends in high places who would go to any length to protect him. Some say the police are not sure if they have the right man behind bars even though Reid sustained burn wounds the same night his daughter's burnt body was found.
While on the scene, SMN News contacted Chief of Police Peter de Witte asking that he explain to us why his officers or the police management team took the measures they took with the murder supect. De Witte said he was not aware of the measures and promised to give orders to his subordinates to allow the media to exercise their duty. An SMN News reporter was told that as long as she is on private property the police cannot remove her neither stop her from performing her duties. Shortly after the first phone conversation, De Witte informed SMN News that we could go back where we were and to make sure we stay a safe distance away from the police.
The officers on the scene then removed the barriers they placed at on Front Street and Back Street, but when the suspect was about to leave the Court House, the media workers and members of the public who gathered at the Court House to get a glimpse of the suspect were all chased away despite the orders given by De Witte.
When contacted later in the afternoon De Witte maintained that he did not know why his officers took the measures they took against the media. De Witte said that the police always cooperates with media workers but they were obliged to close the road for the protection of the suspect and the people in the immediate vicinity since there were school children on the road at the time.
What is even more suspicious about the police's actions on Friday is that an officer tipped off media workers that one of their colleague's son's was inside of the Court House as a robbery suspect and that the reporters should take their shots. At the time, the officers were escorting local businessman Angele Priest and the officer's son before the judge of instruction to request an extension in their pre-trial detention.
Members of the community that gathered to see the suspect express outrage as they all believed that the police were over exaggerating. Some of them booed the suspect when he exited the Court House to enter the police vehicle that was transporting him back to the Philipsburg Police Station.