The shooter who died in an alley in Middle Region after in a failed contract killing on October 28, 2019. (File photo)
~ Accomplice facing 15 years ~
PHILIPSBURG--S.A.T.P. (29) is facing life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in four contract killings between June 2018 and January 2020. In total, he has been charged with manslaughter, gun possession, two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
Another man F.A.R. (29) is facing 15 years in prison for being an accomplice in one of these hits.
P., also known as “Heart”, stands accused of being the getaway driver in a shooting that took place in front of Stephanie Mini Marche in Middle Region on October 28, 2019.
Surveillance camera footage shown during yesterday’s trial depicted two masked men getting out of a white Kia Cerato on Middle Region Road. With pistols in their hands, they ran towards the supermarket, where a group of young men were sitting. The armed men opened fire on the group, injuring two and fatally wounding 23-year-old Ishmael Brumant.
It had rained earlier in the day and one of the hitmen slipped and fell during the shooting. While getting up, his accomplice – who had been continually firing since the beginning of the attack – accidentally shot him in the abdomen.
The group scattered and the uninjured shooter chased behind them in the direction of Sister Marie Laurence Primary School. The injured shooter ran away in the other direction, collapsed in a nearby alley and died.
While the uninjured shooter chased after the men, a white Kia Picanto that was parked next to the primary school started to move. The shooter jumped into the Picanto and the car fled towards Dutch Quarter.
The prosecutor considered it proven that P. was the getaway driver. His mobile phone was tracked to Middle Region at the time of the shooting. Additionally, 10 minutes after the shooting he placed two calls to the mobile phone of the shooter who died in the alley, which the prosecutor argues was to arrange where P. could pick him up.
The prosecutor believes this was an unsuccessful hit, because Brumant had no criminal history, unlike some of the other men who were shot at. At the time, Brumant had also only recently returned from abroad.
Police tapped both P.’s and the suspected surviving shooter’s mobile phones on November 23, 2019.
That same day, police heard P. warning the surviving shooter – a man R.J.K.R. (21), also known as “Fire” – to take the licence plates off his car because there are surveillance cameras in Middle Region. The same licence plates that were on the getaway car were later found on a vehicle driven by Fire’s girlfriend.
The Alpha Team arrested P. while he was driving a white Kia Sportage near the old Harold Jack lookout point on Cole Bay Hill on January 23, 2020. A mask like the one worn by the surviving shooter in the Middle Region shooting was found P.’s car, and Fire’s DNA was found on the mask.
Fire was arrested on the French side and is currently incarcerated in Guadeloupe. Authorities found a Glock 17 handgun in Fire’s home when they raided it on January 23, 2020. The ballistics from this gun matched the Middle Region shooting, as well as another suspected hit earlier that month in front of Abu Ghazi Swarma in Madame Estate.
Fire, as well as defendants P. and R., are suspected of attempting to murder a man in Abu Ghazi’s parking lot in Madame Estate in the early morning hours of January 5, 2020.
Two days before the shooting, the police wiretap heard Fire and P. planning the hit, with the latter saying he saw the man there frequently with his girlfriend.
In a WhatsApp voice note several hours before the shooting, R. told P. that “I bet you tonight the dog [going to – Ed.] fall.”
Surveillance camera footage of this shooting was also shown to the court. The victim is seen leaning into a vehicle’s window while speaking to someone. Another car appears and stops close to him. Two armed men started shooting, but the car suddenly jerks forward, stops again, then flees the scene in a hurry. The victim was shot in the leg, but survived.
About half an hour after the shooting, Fire called an unknown man and asked him to go the scene of the crime to check it out. Fire told the man that they could “not get him in Maho”, but they had shot him later and that he had seen the man fall. He also expressed his anger at the driver moving the car.
Sometime later, P. berated R. over the phone for botching the hit, telling him that they now could not earn any money for it.
R. also expressed regret about the mistake in a WhatsApp message. “Heart, I can’t tell you how [expletive] up I feel right now. … I see the man, like, was going pull something. I just move a li’l more, like behind the jeep, nuh dawg. I just ain’t wanted none of you man get hit same way, dawg. Chuups, but that man supposed to be dead, dawg,” he said.
Two spent cartridges found at the scene of this shooting matched the gun P. had in his possession when he was arrested.
The prosecutor argued that the hitmen had followed the victim from Maho to Madame Estate. All three of their mobile phones were active in Maho about two hours before the shooting, and surveillance cameras in Maho saw the same car from which they allegedly had shot at the victim driving behind him as he left the area.
The prosecutor said the motive for this contract killing cannot be determined for certain, but speculated that the victim’s recent acquittal on homicide charges might have been the reason.
Intelligence gleaned by police indicates that P. has ties to No Limit Soldiers (NLS) member Urvin “Nuto” Wawoe and may have been working for him as a hitman, said the prosecutor. Wawoe once lived in St. Maarten and his associate and girlfriend were shot dead here.
Wawoe’s hitlist included victims in the Middle Region shooting and the attempted murder in Abu Ghazi’s parking lot, said the prosecutor.
NLS is an organised crime group that started in Curaçao and is known for drugs and arms trafficking, money-laundering and murder-for-hire. The group has also been linked to high-profile assassinations such as the 2013 murder of Curaçao Member of Parliament (MP) Helmin Wiels, who was killed on the orders of former Curaçao Finance Minister George Jamaloodin.
Fire and P. discussed two other potential hits while their phones were tapped, as well as buying ammunition and firearms with an unidentified person.
The two spoke about putting a target under surveillance on December 5, 2019, and discussed whether it was safe to do so. In the end, they decided against the operation. “We must catch this [expletive] though,” Fire told P. afterwards.
While Fire was at the hospital with his pregnant girlfriend on January 7, 2020, P. called him and said that he was observing “Three” and described his car to Fire.
The prosecutor said this car belonged to a man who had been injured in a shooting on June 19, 2018. One of the two guns used to shoot the man in this incident matched the gun used to murder Jonathan Williams on August 5, 2018.
Williams was ambushed and shot in his car in Simpson Bay after a night of partying at popular club Soggy Dollar. Another car had blocked in Williams while he was reversing out of a parking space. A masked man had stepped out of the back seat of this car with a firearm in his hand, walked up to Williams’ car, and shot him three times in the head at point-blank range. The shooter then got back into the car, which fled in the direction of the French side.
Earlier this year, Akeba Sambo Williams – no relation to Jonathan – was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for being the getaway driver in this murder, among other crimes.
The getaway car was found abandoned in French Quarter about three weeks after the murder, and P.’s DNA was found on handle of the left rear door – the same one that the shooter had jumped out of.
The prosecutor said P.’s phone records show that he and the getaway driver, both of whom hail from St. Kitts, had frequent contact in 2018.
‘Professional murder team’
While they were not part of a “real criminal organisation”, the prosecutor said Fire and P. had “intensive collaboration” as part of a “close team with the same goal.”
The prosecutor argued that P. was a major player in this “professional murder team”, and that the four killings in which he is implicated are just “the tip of the iceberg.”
The prosecutor pointed to the ease with which P. and Fire discussed their targets in the wire taps as evidence of the business-like manner in which they viewed taking human life. The prosecutor added that Fire even left his pregnant girlfriend at the hospital to follow a potential target.
When P. and Fire planned the Abu Ghazi hit on January 3, 2020, P. told Fire: “Let’s go and drop that fast [and] go home, dawg. So, we can lime later.”
“For a long time, [P.] made it his profession to kill people,” said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor argued that the court should disregard that P. was not the shooter in all the crimes, because he and Fire often switched roles. Fire told P. on December 5, 2019, while discussing the surveillance of a potential target, that he wanted P. to be the shooter. “For sure, this time it’s you,” Fire said.
Life imprisonment is rarely applied in the Dutch judicial system, reserved for only the most violent offenders. The prosecutor considered this sentence justified for P. and demanded life imprisonment or, as a substitute, 30 years’ imprisonment, which is the maximum punishment for murder.
The prosecutor demanded 15 years imprisonment for R., who is charged with being an accomplice to the botched Abu Ghazi hit and for gun possession. The prosecutor argued that R. was an active participant in the planning and execution of this contract killing.
“He already committed himself to the murder on January 4 by sending the voice message. He not only brought the shooters from A to B, he thought and cooperated during the shooting by moving the car so that the shooters could get a better position … He worked with the gunmen to commit the crime,” said the prosecutor.
Silence and misunderstandings
P. invoked his right to remain silent during yesterday’s hearing, while R. said that investigators misunderstood what he was talking about on the tapped phone conversations.
R. told the judge that he was in Maho partying that night and was not driving the car that carried the attackers.
R.’s lawyer demanded his client’s acquittal because there is no physical evidence that links him to the crime, and he cannot be seen in the surveillance camera footage. The lawyer also questioned the severity of the prosecutor’s demands, saying that persons accused of more grisly crimes have been sentenced to similar durations.
P.’s lawyer questioned the DNA evidence found in the getaway car linked to Williams’ murder. He said it does not prove that his client was in the car on that night. He also questioned the harshness of life imprisonment, saying that his client is a father and still a young man.
‘Wrong time, right place’
Brumant’s mother submitted a claim for damages of approximately US $10,000 for her son’s funeral cost, as well as other legal costs.
She pleaded with the judge to give the defendants the maximum possible sentence. She said her son was innocent and it was simply the “wrong time, but at the right place.”
The judge will render a verdict in this case on October 29.
The vehicle driven by alleged hitman S.A.T.P. being transported to the Philipsburg police station by the Alpha Team on January 23, 2020. (File photo)