Lifetime sentence and 25 years in jail asked for the two main suspects R.D and J.L.
“Vigilant and committed to serve and protect all, in a decisive and professional manner”. This is the motto of KPSM and every police officer on the force: To protect and to serve. And that is exactly what officers Benjamin and Carti did that day, when they did not hesitate to run towards the robbery that was going on in Oro Diamante. While every civilian went into hiding, these brave police officers did what we expect them to do. Officer Benjamin paid the highest possible price; he paid with his life.
Before he fired his first (and last) shot, he already got hit by one of three bullets that would cost his life. Ruthlessly killed by the man who is sitting here before you today. Many witnessed this event, because it was broad daylight, all the stores were open and Front Street was filled with tourists from several cruise ships and working people during their lunch break. People were scared and ran for their life.
The news of the shooting traveled fast and there are many who can still recall where they were exactly when they heard it was officer Benjamin who was shot. Benji, as he was affectionately named, was loved and respected by many; he was kind, big hearted and an excellent police officer. While leading the bike patrol, he gave the bike patrol it’s face, he formed the team, he set the example. Besides that, he was a son, a father, a husband, a member of a loving family, a colleague and a friend to many. He can never be replaced, but he will always be remembered.
“To protect and to serve”; that is what we expect from our police officers. Police officers have to do their job often under difficult circumstances. While civilians in general may avoid danger, it is expected from a police officer to instead approach the danger. The death of police officer Benjamin, killed in the line of duty, has outraged all law enforcement agencies and the Sint Maarten community alike, followed by feelings of unrest and unsafety.
The bike patrol lost their beloved mentor, their ‘big brother’, and now they have to do their work in the same street where he was killed. Every day they have to pass the spot where Benji brutally was gunned down. This is extremely traumatizing, because we all still expect them to do their job and guard our safety. Since Benji’s death, police work on the island has changed. Now they have to perform their duty with Benji’s death in the back of their minds.
Punishment based on our Penal Code is about retribution: compensation for the crimes that have been committed. It’s also about general and individual prevention, because we want to prevent that it will ever happen again.
Taking one’s life is one of the most severe crimes one can commit. In this case it has caused irreversible loss and tremendous grief first of all to Benjamin’s family, his little boy and his friends. Their loss can never be compensated and they have to live their lives missing him and wondering what could have been.
Maybe they will find comfort in knowing that Benjamin was so much loved and respected by many. The amount of people attending the emotional church service was overwhelming and the complete society of Sint Maarten mourned his death for weeks. Thus showing their support and the fact that not only the direct relatives have been hurt.
A member of society in a local newspaper said: “The shooting of a police officer by a coward with a gun has brought our once tranquil “Friendly” Island to an all-time new low in societal behavior. Killing any human being is bad; however, being mentally capable, and physically prepared and able to actually shoot a police officer, a representative of the law, is a whole other matter!”
We couldn’t agree more. By committing these acts, the authority of our rule of law has been damaged. Officer Carti, who so bravely managed to arrest D., might even have been traumatized for the rest of his life. The way D. fires 11 shots from a short distance without any hesitation was excessive; 11 times he pulls the trigger. This was not about D. firing a shot in order to get away. This was about emptying his weapon at two police officers while he could literally look them in the eye. D. in a whatsapp conversation found in his telephone in January said about it: “It was him or me”. But it wasn’t. It was two officers of the law, who were lawfully trying to make an arrest of two criminals coming out of an armed robbery. D had a choice, he could have surrendered, but he chose to kill.
It must be clear: with the punishment I am about to ask the judge to impose, the Prosecutor’s office is sending out a strong message: don’t touch our police force. Especially in a small community like Sint Maarten, with a police corps that is still being build up, that is highly dependent on the recruitment of young men and women fully committed and motivated to serve their country and protect our society, we in return must do whatever it takes to back them up.
The punishment also needs to retribute for the robbery that both suspects have committed. This time it was Oro Diamante and the workers and manager of that store who got a gun pointed at them and had could do nothing else but helplessly witness what happened. It does not need explaining that it must have been a very traumatizing experience for them. The fact that this armed robbery was committed on a busy day and at a time when Frontstreet was filled with people, shows the brutality, the greed and the total disrespect for the possession and personal safety of others. It is a miracle that nobody else got
This case furthermore shows why it is so important to take a firm stand against all illegal gun possession. Robberies are much easier committed with a gun in hand, adding to the feeling of invicibility of the robber. It doesn’t need further explaining what can happen when someone with the wrong intentions has access to an illegal fire arm. From the investigation we know now that D. had access to at least 3 different guns over a longer period of time, showing off one of them in a videoclip.
The conclusion of the Prosecutor’s Office is that for D., the punishment can only be the most severe. For the crimes he committed he deserves the maximum limited prison sentence, which is 30 years, or a life sentence. A lower prison sentence would not do justice to the crimes that were committed against officers of the law on that fatal day. A lower sentence would not sufficiently fulfill the element of retribution.
Upon choosing between 30 years imprisonment or a life sentence, the question rises if the protection of society demands that the suspect D. will ever be released, or if there is any perspective that at the end of his sentence D. will have changed in a positive way.
D. although not convicted before, is not unknown to police and justice. In 2010 he was arrested for a burglary, but this case was dismissed for lack of evidence. On the 20th of November 2014 the Prosecutor’s Office demanded 15 months imprisonment for chain snatching. The judge however gave him the benefit of the doubt and acquitted.
The psychologist concludes that D. does not take full responsibility of his actions. Although he shows some remorse and to some extend the notion that what he did was terrible, it remains unclear to what extend he really has a wish to change and make something of his life. The risk that he will commit another crime is real (average/above average according to the psychologist). A few days before the courthearing D. also had a psychiatric evaluation. Even with the psychiatrist he doesn’t want to talk about what happened. He says ‘one bad decision lead to a bad situation’ and that he hopes he will get a second chance. The psychiatrist points out that it seems he externalizes his actions. With that the psychiatrist means to say that to D. it’s like this has overcome him, more than that he is the one who caused it.
D. knows his rights very well. He knows he may remain silent and he chooses to do so. During the entire investigation he never showed any remorse, not to the police officers who came to question him, nor towards the family of Benjamin. To us, he has not given any insight in who he is, why he did it and how he looks back on it.
Instead he chose to speak through social media, using his artist name “Kilo Gotti”. On the 3rd of January 2016 he published three pictures of himself made in prison on Facebook: One with the text: “Welcome to St Murda”, One with the text “Don’t kill me…kill the police” and one with the text “Money New Year, Fuck the Police”. The message that he is sending us, is that the life of a police officer means nothing to him. He in fact is using the killing of a cop to boost his reputation as a rap artist. Adding it to his list of crimes; maybe we should call him “Done dat”. He is only 24 years of age, but he is used to taking care of himself for such a long time, that he truly can be seen as an adult who made his choice in life. If this crime, the killing of Benjamin, who he actually knew and respected, did not already gave him the ultimate reason to step out of his crimepath, what will? His attitude after the crime destroys every hope of a positive change in the future.
The conclusion is that there are actually only elements that add to the height of the punishment. In Dutch we say: er zijn alleen strafverhogende elementen die meegewogen moeten worden.
All these elements put together must lead to the conclusion that D. should be punished to the maximum. The Prosecutor’s demands a longlife sentence.
As for L.: he is also known to police and justice, but he too has not been convicted before. He was arrested for a robbery he supposedly committed on the 24th of September 2014. On the 19th of November he was acquitted by the judge.
For L. there are in fact elements that weigh positively for his sentence. First of all Leon was not the one who fired the gun.
Secondly, he did at one point cooperated with the police. He gave statements about his role and that of D.. He also showed remorse and showed that he realizes that his part in this crime is serious. On the other hand he still is responsible for very severe crimes.
Although he saw two police officers down, he chose to flee with D., he chose to go into hiding and he chose to sell the jewelry that he stole by using such brute force. According to the psychologist, there is an above average to large chance that he will repeat his behaviour and resort to committing crimes.
Weighing all these factors leads to the following: For L. the Prosecutor’s Office demands a jail sentence of 25 years.
Bron: Openbaar Ministerie Sint Maarten