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Haiti probes South Florida Haitian-American connection to president’s assassination

Haitian officers detain 2 Haitian-American men in connection with president’s assassination

MIAMI – Haitian officers in Port-au-Prince reported Thursday that they have arrested several suspects in connection with President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination Wednesday at his home. Four died during a shootout. There are still suspects on the run.

Two of the suspects are Haitian-American men with apparent connections to South Florida. James Solages, of Fort Lauderdale, was among the suspects and he was detained on Wednesday in Port-au-Prince, according to Haitian authorities.

ABC's Aicha El Hammar confirmed with Haiti's Minister of Election Matthias Pierre that a US citizen of Haitian descent- identified as James Solages-is a suspect in President Jovenel Moise's assassination and was detained Wednesday. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.)

Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s minister of elections, told ABC News that two of the suspects were Haitian-American men and one of them is Solages, who is a U.S. Citizen of Haitian descent. His role is unclear.

The account of a Facebook user identified as Solages from Fort Lauderdale was suspended. The Linkedin account of a user matching the description alleged having close-quarters combat training. Florida records show a James Solages had expired security officer and firearm licenses.

The Miami Herald reported the other Haitian-American suspect is Joseph Vincent, of Miami.

Suspects in the assassination of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise sit on the floor after being detained, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. A Haitian judge involved in the murder investigation said that President Moise was shot a dozen times and that his office and bedroom were ransacked. (AP Photo/Jean Marc Herv Ablard) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Léon Charles, director of Haiti’s National Police, described the suspects as mercenaries during the official announcements on national radio and television.

“We have the physical authors, now we are looking for the intellectual authors,” Charles said

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph reopened the airport and he appeared to have the support of the Armed Forces of Haiti and the National Police. Before the assassination, Moïse named Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon, prime minister.

A police truck takes two detainees to the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. According to Police Chief Leon Charles, the two detained are suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the U.S., told The Associated Press the killers were well-trained foreign mercenaries who pretended to be U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agents.

First Lady Martine Moïse, who was injured when Moïse, 53, was killed, was at Jackson Memorial Hospital Thursday in Miami-Dade County. She arrived at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport Wednesday evening. Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church parishioners prayed for her for the second day in Miami’s Little Haiti.

“The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime both said Thursday in Miami that Haiti needs help from the U.S. She met with reporters at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and said she is “fully committed” to working with the Biden administration to help Haitians.

“America and the international community must provide that security,” Wilson said.”It’s not just a president who was assassinated. It was who assassinated him and why.”

In downtown Miami, Miami-Dade County commissioners held a moment of silence in memory of Moïse. Monestime, the first Haitian-American commissioner, asked for prayers for Haiti. He is a long-time member of the Eden Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Miami’s Little River neighborhood.

Monestime also warned that the current escalation of political unrest in Haiti comes with an ongoing “surge in kidnappings, rapes, and killings, as rival gangs battle each other and the police for control of the streets.”

People look into the window of a police car carrying the bodies of two people killed in a shooting with police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. According to Police Chief Leon Charles, the two dead are suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Moïse won the November 2016 presidential election and he was sworn in February 2017. In recent months, there were Haitians in South Florida who feared for his life. There were fiery protests. Moïse had been ruling by decree.

The presidential and legislative elections in Haiti are on Sept. 26. Before his murder, Moïse pushed for a constitutional referendum to help strengthen the presidency.

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An ambulance carrying the body of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise drives past a mural featuring him near the leaders residence where he was killed by gunmen in the early morning in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Claude Joseph, the interim prime minister, confirmed the killing and said the police and military were in control of security in Haiti. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Coverage on July 7

A member of security forces cordons off access to the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Gunmen assassinated Moise and wounded his wife in their home early Wednesday. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
A bystander points to a vehicle, perforated with bullets holes, parked outside the residence of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Gunmen assassinated Moise and wounded his wife in their home early Wednesday. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose near the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. Officials pledged to find all those responsible for the pre-dawn raid on Moses home early Wednesday in which the president was shot to death and his wife, Martine, critically wounded. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Police walk among protesters during a protest against the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Mose near the police station of Petion Ville in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Thursday, July 8, 2021. Officials pledged to find all those responsible for the pre-dawn raid on Moses home early Wednesday in which the president was shot to death and his wife, Martine, critically wounded. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.