Police Department arson suspect charged after wild Sunday night
by Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First
This news story was first published in the Caledonian-Record.
Two men, including a member of a violent New York City gang, are dead in an apparent drug-related double homicide in Burlington’s Old North End as part of a wild Sunday night that saw police officers also handle two other non-fatal shootings and an arsonist torching the lobby of the city police station, officials said.
Khalif M. Jones, 27, of Burlington and Anthony R. Smith Jr., 26, of Vergennes were fatally shot at an apartment at 4 Decatur Street in Burlington about 9:15 p.m., authorities said. Both were shot in the head.
Smith was dead at the scene and Jones died shortly before 11 p.m. at the UVM Medical Center, Police Chief Jon Murad said.
The families did not want the names of the homicide victims made public, according to Chief Murad, but he maintained it was essential to be transparent in these kinds of crimes.
The New York City Police Department listed Jones as an associate of the “Crips,” a criminal gang in New York City, according to the U.S. Marshals Service in Vermont, which was looking for him as a fugitive in December 2019. The Marshals Service said at the time Burlington Police had asked for help finding Jones because he had failed to appear in state court to face drug trafficking charges from a June 2019 arrest.
Jones, who used the street name “Leaf Lzz,” was found leaving Motel 6 in Colchester and arrested him Dec. 16, 2019, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal John Curtis reported at the time.
Jones also was wanted for escape by the Department of Corrections for disappearing while on furlough for an aggravated assault with a weapon case, Curtis said.
Jones had a long history of arrests in Burlington that includes cases of sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, driving while intoxicated and other crimes, Murad said during a news conference.
Murad and a BPD press release both listed Jones as being from Stowe, but that was news to Stowe Police on Monday.
Stowe Police said they were unaware of any link Jones had locally. Stowe Police officers had been asked once to check for Jones at a local address, but investigation showed he never resided there, Lt. Fred Whitcomb said.
Smith did not have much of a record of contact with law enforcement as an adult, police said.
Investigators believe that Smith was killed by Jones and that Jones may have been killed by a third person in the apartment, Murad said.
“A firearm was recovered with Mr. Jones. We believe that was the firearm used to kill Mr. Smith and the firearm that was used to kill Mr. Jones is not currently accounted for. Although we have found ballistics evidence indicating of more than one firearm at the scene,” Murad said.
He said both men were on the floor next to each other in the same room of the multi-room apartment. One was dead and the other lying next to him “was seriously injured and appeared to be likely to die.”
Murad said it was unclear who got shot first.
The chief said he would not share with the public how many people were reported to be in the apartment at the time of the shooting on Decatur Street. He said responding officers did find people outside who had been inside the residence.
Police said the double homicide may be related to a shooting about 75 minutes earlier near the Hilton Garden Inn at 101 Main Street
There were no known injuries and no suspects taken into custody, but at least one shell casing was located at the scene, said news videographer Wayne Savage, who was at the scene.
Murad said the shooting is considered a reckless endangerment case because there are no known victims.
Burlington and University of Vermont Police responded to the area, which is about a block from Burlington’s City Hall Park.
It was shortly after clearing from the scene of the first shooing on Main Street that Burlington Fire and Rescue were both summoned to 4 Decatur Street by Intervale Avenue.
Burlington Fire and Rescue were seen carrying one person to a gurney and it was lifted into the back of a Burlington Ambulance before it departed Decatur for UVM Medical Center.
The Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force, which was created and developed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives earlier this summer, responded to help with the investigation.
Police said after the two shootings Sunday they had confirmed 13 reported gunfire incidents in the city that may involve criminal conduct this year. The 14th shooting case was reported at 1:15 a.m. on East Avenue and centered on a drug dispute, Murad said.
The wounded person, who Murad did not identify, reported he was shot above the foot while he was being robbed of his drugs, police said. It is believed unrelated to the double homicide.
Also, overnight Stephen Romprey, 62, of Burlington entered the police lobby and set it on fire at about 2 p.m., Murad said. Romprey was later found near Pearl Street and is facing charges of arson and reckless endangerment, the chief said.