The operation that led to Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination was pre-planned for at least a month, and came together during meals around Port-au-Prince and at a home where most of the men accused of the slaying were staying, several people who interviewed some of the suspects told the Miami Herald.
“They probably were watching and waiting for the opportunity for them to do it,” said Investigative Judge Clément Noël, who was among the first to question the two Haitian-Americans among the 19 suspects detained so far.
James A. Solages, 35, and Joseph G. Vincent, 56, both from South Florida, did not tell Noël why they chose the date that they did— July 7— to launch the armed attack on Moïse’s private residence, but insisted that the plan was not to assassinate him.
Their mission, Noël and another person who debriefed the men said they were told, was to “arrest the president [at his home] and go to the presidential palace with him.”
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The two Haitian Americans “said they were there, but they didn’t go to kill the president,” Noël said. “They said they knew what happened, but they didn’t participate in the killing. They were there to translate.”
Haiti, it is illegal to arrest anyone after 6 p.m. unless it’s in the commission of a crime, something that Noël thinks is a hole in the men’s story. He said Solages and Vincent insisted that they had a copy of an arrest warrant that night. Asked who provided the warrant, the men claimed they did not remember.
The idea, they told another interviewer, was to install someone else as president, a claim Interim Haiti National Police Chief Léon Charles told the Herald on Saturday he doesn’t believe.
“They wanted to kill him,” Charles said about Moïse, who came into office in 2017. “They knew what they were doing.”
Moïse, 53, was assassinated inside his bedroom. His body was hit by 12 rounds, justice of the peace Carl Henry Destin told the Herald. Wearing blue pants and a white shirt covered in blood, Moïse was lying on his back at the foot of his bed when Destin arrived about 5 hours after the 1 a.m. assault. Destin said the wooden front door of the home and the door to Moïse’s upstairs bedroom were “riddled with bullets.”