By Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First
A 44 year-old Burlington man was shot in the chest and a second person — with an interesting court history — has been arrested following a Sunday night shooting at the Salmon Run Apartments at 220 Riverside Avenue (next to River Watch Condos).
Vermont News First learned the suspect’s identity as Tovi Rose Mesick, 41, of Jeffersonville and formerly known as Christopher Mesick.
Burlington Police said the shooting suspect was on foot when taken into custody by Winooski Police about a half hour after the 6:30 p.m. shooting, police said. He has been jailed, with bail set at $50,000.
A Jeep displaying a Vermont registration plate with a Purple Heart designation was seen being towed from the shooting scene.
Earlier in the evening Acting Burlington Police Chief John Murad told freelance news videographer Wayne Savage at the scene that the suspect was well known to local police and their federal law enforcement partners.
Mesick, who won a Purple Heart while serving in the U.S. Army as a gunner during combat in Iraq, later transitioned while a major federal gun prosecution was underway in Vermont, records show.
The shooting victim was in stable condition Sunday night at the UVM Medical Center, Murad said. The Burlington Fire Department wheeled him out of an apartment and to a waiting ambulance for the short run up the hill to the hospital.
Three years ago Mesick was charged with being both a convicted felon and a drug user in illegal possession of firearms, federal court records show. Those charges were eventually dismissed for technical reasons. Court papers show he petitioned the court to have authorities give back the guns.
The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state police found 16 firearms, including several high-powered assault rifles at Mesick’s Main Street home in January 2020. They also found 400 pounds of ammunition and a large bag of marijuana at the Mesick home, the ATF said in court papers at the time.
Federal prosecutors later dropped the charges in August 2021 because they believed they could have trouble showing Mesick had knowledge of both crimes due to circumstances.
Mesick was on state probation at the time for aggravated assault with a firearm by pointing it at a victim in Burlington in September 2017, records show.
Mesick also has a previous arrest in Burlington for aggravated assault for cutting open a man and his organs were hanging out, records said. The Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped that case.
Chittenden County prosecutors had Mesick plead guilty to the gun assault, but offered a deferred sentence that allowed for the conviction to be eliminated by staying out of trouble for 5 years.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Drescher said when dropping the charges the government was told that Mesick believed that possession of firearms was legal because the aggravated assault with a firearm conviction would be wiped off the defendant’s criminal record.
Then-Assistant Federal Defender David McColgin said in court papers his client has maintained the state defense lawyer in the gun case, Jasdeep Pannu, said it was acceptable to possess firearms because the record would be eliminated.
Drescher said the defense also maintained Mesick thought possession of marijuana was legal because Vermont had relaxed its drug law. Drescher said it was still illegal under federal law, but the conflict could lead to confusion by the jury.
He said with those issues the decision was made not to pursue the two felony charges at this time. Drescher noted Mesick will remain on state probation until Sept. 2022.
McColgin has said Mesick served in the military from 1999 to 2009, including a deployment to Iraq from 2005-06 and won multiple service-related awards. Mesick had more than 150 missions as a gunner with the Army National Guard, McColgin said.
Mesick said she got blown up three times with the final one in May 2006 as the worst. That is when she was awarded the Purple Heart, Mesick said.
McColgin said Mesick suffered a traumatic brain injury.
During a police interview Mesick admitted daily use of marijuana, court records note.
It was during that interview Mesick also acknowledged a previous felony conviction for aggravated assault, “but because he received a deferred sentence on the conviction, Mesick thought he was allowed to possess firearm,” an ATF agent wrote at the time.