Ramoamasagana Pemberton, popularly known as Masa at court December 4, 2015
Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
Ramoamasagana ‘Masa’ Pemberton, who is facing charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, told the court that he never reported his findings to local authorities as he didn’t want to be linked to their discovery and be targeted by its rightful owner.
Masa made these comments while giving testimony in the trial yesterday, February 22 before Magistrate Ayanna Baptiste-Dabreo.
The 26 year-old BVIslander, who resides at Purcell Estate, pleaded not guilty on July 5, 2016 to the charges of keeping an unlicensed firearm (Glock .40 caliber pistol) and unlawful possession of explosives (15 rounds of ammunition).
Officers found the items on April 21st, 2016 on an empty lot in Purcell Estate. The items were linked to the accused through a match of his fingerprints and those collected from the items.
In an earlier appearance, the court heard that it was sometime in August 2015 when Masa first came into contact with the weapon. The accused explained that while cleaning a space to park a scooter in the neighbouring lot, the items fell out of a tarpaulin as he shifted its location.
The court heard that he shifted drums, pallets and other stuff to properly accommodate the scooter.
Having discovered the items, Masa explained that he used both his hands and feet to place the items in one direction and covered them with a box.
Both the crown and the court questioned why he never reported what he found to the authorities, personally or anonymously.
It was at this point the accused mentioned that he never wanted to be linked to the items, in the media or with police, and he was scared that he would become a target to the owner of the items.
Crown Counsel O’neal Simpson questioned the accused as to the reasons this information was not initially mentioned to officers while giving statements.
The crown went on to reference a witness statement given by the accused to officers in 2016 after the find of the items, noting that Masa informed officers that he never in his life had any contact with a firearm. The crown noted that he failed to mention such an incident had occurred.
In response this, the accused told the court that he didn't remember the incident, highlighting that a period of 10 months had already passed between the incident and his conversation with officers.
Under further questioning, Masa stated that when he was shown a photo of the items found by police officers, he felt as if his world was coming to an end, “because I recalled the gun and I didn’t want police to tie it to me. I panicked.”
Following an explanation to the court, where the accused highlighted that he had borrowed the bike because his vehicle was being fixed, Masa told the court that after 15 minutes of the scooter being parked in the spot he had just cleared, he moved it and took it back to its rightful owner.
This also raised some concerns for both the crown and the court, questioning why he went through all that trouble to clear a space for the bike, only to return it to its owner 15 minutes after.
Masa stated that he took the bike back as he didn’t feel it was in a safe location, and didn’t want to be linked to anything, keeping in mind what he had just discovered.
According to court notes, on April 21st, 2016 around 5:25 pm, officers received information that led them to conduct a search of a premises located in the Purcell Estate area.
Upon reaching the area, a silver box was found by a sheet of galvanize roofing. It was taken to the Road Town Police Station and opened in the presence of other officers. In the box was a black 9mm Glock .40 handgun with an extended magazine loaded with ammunition.
The following day, officers dismantled the gun and took swabs for DNA and fingerprints.
On June 30, detectives conducted further investigation and visited the home of Masa in Purcell Estate. There, the officers met Masa's father and armed with a warrant, detectives conducted a search, but nothing illegal was found.
It was recorded that Masa, who was not at home at the time, then visited the police station around 7:45 am where he was formerly cautioned about the gun. He voluntarily did a cautioned police audio interview where he said that he had never seen any firearm, let alone touch it.
However, a second interview was conducted later in the day where he changed his position and said that he had seen the gun during the course of 2015.
Masa told police that he was in the process of parking a scooter he was keeping for his friend when he saw the box and he went to investigate it. Upon doing so, the gun fell out of the box. The defendant said that he then placed the items back in the box and pushed all the items to the location where he found it.
"He states that he further observed the gun with the magazine in the case and did in fact handle them," said Simpson.
The prosecutor indicated that Masa told police he did not report the discovery because he did not want to be thought of as the person being in custody of the said items. He also said that he did not wish to be identified as a witness in the matter as he feared legitimately for his safety.
In relation to the fingerprints, Simpson explained that between April 22, 2016 and June 30, 2016, further investigations were conducted involving Masa with the use of fingerprint processes. He said Masa had consented to having his finger and palm prints recorded. Those were then compared to those lifted from the firearm box and yielded a positive match.
Masa, who has been remanded to prison over the last seven months, will receive a decision on the matter sometime in April.
As noted by the court, following written submissions from the crown on March 11, with response from Masa’s Defense Attorney Patrick Thompson on March 21, the court will subsequently announce a date for decision.