Crime

Man who ‘keys’ cars fears FBI, Burlington police chief and prosecutor say

Both the Chittenden County State’s Attorney and the Burlington Chief of Police say the man accused of “keying” hundreds of cars across Vermont doesn’t need jail – he needs mental health hospitalization. However, the VT Dept. of Mental Health disagrees.

Burlington police say Thursday morning August 12, Burlington Police received a call about a man “keying vehicles” on Grant Street while walking toward Union Street. Police knew the suspect from his committing similar, previous alleged acts in May: Micael Bizuneh, 31, had also assaulted a police officer at that time. 

Officers canvassed the area and located and documented 18 vehicles that had been damaged in similar ways. Officers searched the area for Bizuneh and discovered that he had disembarked from a Green Mountain Transit bus from Middlebury at about 8 am that morning. While investigating Bizuneh’s recent history, officers made contact with other Vermont police agencies and determined that, over the past several days, Bizuneh was suspected of having vandalized about 50 vehicles in Middlebury, 25 in Vergennes, and eight in Bristol. 

Based on Bizuneh’s prior history, BPD contacted the Department of Mental Health. After officers located and apprehended Bizuneh, representatives of the Department of Mental Health stated that, despite Mr. Bizuneh being in the agency’s custody under an order of non-hospitalization, they did not support efforts to hospitalize Bizuneh at this time. Further, they stated that they felt his behaviors were not the product of his mental illness. 

Previous reporting by the Barre Montpelier Times Argus in March, noted that, sometime after Mr. Bizuneh allegedly committed crimes in August 2019, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan L. Weker evaluated Mr. Bizuneh and determined that he was not competent. From the Times Argus: “Weker said Bizuneh experiences symptoms of schizophrenia. He said Bizuneh suffers from delusions where he believes he’s been pursued by the FBI for a number of years. The psychiatrist said Bizuneh thinks the FBI is tracking him and trying to get him to give up information. Weker said Bizuneh has reported he believes the FBI has hired psychics to torture him and has planted listening devices in vehicles. The psychiatrist said Bizuneh damaged property so that he could draw attention to himself because he knew doing so would force the FBI to back off or risk being discovered.” 

More recently, Bizuneh has made similar statements to law enforcement in Burlington and Rutland after repeated apprehensions for alleged acts of vandalism. 

On May 17, Bizuneh vandalized six police cruisers at the Burlington Police Department, smashing their windshields with a rock. When confronted at gunpoint by officers, while still holding the rock, he asked; “Are you going to let them torture me? Let the FBI kill me?” On May 22, Bizuneh made similar statements about the FBI after Burlington police apprehended him for allegedly vandalizing more than a dozen cars. At that time he also assaulted a female police officer. In July 2021, Bizuneh allegedly vandalized 30 cars in Rutland. Sgt. Jon Dickerson of the Rutland City Police Department was quoted in the Rutland Herald as noting that “He thought the feds were in cahoots with us and they were after him. He wasn’t in his right mind at all.” 

On Thursday, August 12, after Burlington officers apprehended him, Bizuneh again alluded to FBI involvement in his acts and capture. In total, over the past four months, Bizuneh has allegedly caused many tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the personal property of more than one hundred people throughout Vermont.

Thursday afternoon, the court ordered Bizuneh to be lodged on $1,000 bail. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Friday, August 13. 

“Mr. Bizuneh’s circumstances are yet another example of our mental health system refusing to exercise its statutory authority and instead relying on police and prosecutors to provide mental health services to individuals in great need,” said Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George. “Until the Department of Mental Health fills the void, the criminal legal system will continue to try, and will continue to fail. These people need significant services, not jail.” 

“I’m frustrated by the lack of options for addressing this kind of serious, recurring criminal behavior,” said acting Chief of Police Jon Murad. “The men and women of the Burlington Police Department are very good at finding and safely apprehending people, even at risk to themselves. But in cases like this, jail is not the best answer. Although it temporarily keeps people and property safe, it doesn’t get at the causes of Mr. Bizuneh’s behavior. Instead, in cases like this, we need more access to custodial mental healthcare, where people can be helped even as they are safely prevented from continuing to victimize innocent Vermonters, and prevented from putting their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others at risk.” 

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Burlington Police Department at 658-2704. 

Categories: Crime

9 replies »

  1. Until State’s Attorney Sarah George herself becomes a victim of this kind of attack, she will continue to act out her actual role as a Public Defender. A person of limited means who commits certain crimes in Chittenden County will actually have the opportunity to be represented by TWO public defenders. Elections have consequences. One would at least hope that anyone who had their property damaged by this psychopath wont be voting for her. As the expression goes: “a conservative is a democrat who’s been mugged”.

  2. Why isn’t this repeat criminal in jail? Jail might not the the best answer, but you know, it is an answer…

  3. As Ralph stated, and I would question, how long will it be before Mr. Bizuneh keys the brand new car of the wrong person, and gets caught by him, or her, and gets the bejezus beat out of him or worse ? He should be put into “protective custody” until he is safe to roam about freely without fear of his condition putting him, and others in danger of the consequences.

  4. Is this incident an indicator of what awaits Burlington’s citizens under the current anti-police fervor?
    I believe it is. The tens of thousands of dollars damage this obviously mentally ill person caused is secondary to the issue of why this person is roaming free thru Vermont. The negligence of The Vermont Dept. of Mental Health, along with the Rutland, Addison and Chittenden Cty. State’s Atty’s for over 4 months has led to the situation. One might think that a charge of Assault on a Police Officer May 22 might be enough to demand incarceration pending trial for that charge. I’m sure Sara George would delight in incarcerating a right wing individual for a lesser crime.
    Is it advisable to dispatch a mental health counsellor in lieu of police to deal with a person such as this? It seems to be what Burlington’s Voters want. Until it gets ugly. And people get hurt.
    One might think that a Governor or Mayor would step up and comment on issues such as this, that a governor- whom is directly responsible for the actions of a department under the executive branch- might demand explanation from that department and attempt to rectify a situation….
    Then inform his constituents…. Alas, no. Perhaps it’s the fear of “offending” some group and casting a negative light on himself- there’s an election coming in 15 months.

  5. He’s obviously quite crazy. He also needs treatment and to be confined while receiving treatment until he is no longer a danger to anyone. The total refusal of VT to deal with the significant numbers of mentally ill roaming our streets is outrageous.

  6. If he had tried this just decades ago in a city such as, but merely one example, Howard Beach, NY – he would have gotten a “good ‘ol fashioned beatin'” – would have helped to straighten him right out without any need for taxpayer’s intervention.

  7. There will always be a certain percentage of the population that are mentally deranged to the point where they commit acts that a sane person would be charged criminally for. Over the last 50 years, our “compassionate” society has favored de-institutionalization. For some people, their affliction makes it difficult or impossible to live on their own, without supervision. So they roam the streets and do crazy things to get attention, or as the professionals and misguided liberals might call “a cry for help”. Unfortunately these policies result in the law-abiding populace being victimized by vandalism and assaults. At least in this case the objects of his aggression were inanimate, as opposed to the nut who used a hammer to commit assault a few weeks back in Burlington. It still harms the innocent in the pocketbook, but it’s better than a fractured skull.
    When more elected officials become victims, there may be hope for change, but they tend to live in nice neighborhoods with fences and garages to parks their priuses.

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