By Guy Page
Burlington suffered another violent weekend as understaffed police were forced to shoot a knife-wielding attacker Saturday afternoon, state police say.
The incident was the 21st firearm incident this year. #19 took place Thursday night when a teenaged driver was shot in the torso in a parking lot Thursday night. #20 occurred when two people suffered injuries after being shot near Burlington’s City Hall Park early Saturday morning – during the timeframe in which Burlington police have minimal staffing available for emergency responses.
Following incident #20, Burlington police requested and received patrol assistance from the Vermont State Police Saturday night, VSP spokesperson Adam Silverman said. The Burlington Police Department is shortstaffed due to the national shortage of law enforcement officers and what city police say is a hostile city government. The City Council voted in 2020 to significantly reduce police patrol funding and only voted to restore funding last month after the city agreed to add heightened civilian oversight to the department.
Saturday afternoon, the city temporarily lost yet another patrol officer, seven year veteran Sgt. Simon Bombard, after he was placed on mandatory paid administrative law following his shooting of David Johnson, 20, in Manhattan Drive in Burlington’s Old North End Saturday afternoon. Police say Johnson was waving a knife and expressing suicidal thoughts before rushing police. Wounded by Bombard’s gunshot, Johnson was detained and treated by police before being transported to the hospital.
Vermont State Police issued the following report about the Manhattan Drive shooting (published here verbatim):
An initial review by VSP detectives shows that three BPD officers responded shortly before 3 p.m. to a brief 911 call that reported an unspecified emergency at 249 Manhattan Drive. The officers encountered David Johnson, 20, outside the Burlington home at that address where he lives. He was carrying a large kitchen knife and had made statements about wanting to end his life.
Evidence reviewed by VSP, including footage from body-worn cameras, shows that the officers attempted to establish a rapport with Johnson, whom they knew from previous interactions, and attempted to de-escalate the situation. About four minutes after the police arrived, Johnson charged at one of the officers. That officer was carrying and deployed a conducted electrical weapon, which did not slow Johnson. At the same time, another officer fired his department-issued handgun, striking Johnson one time in the upper left leg.
In the course of the shooting, two occupied vehicles parked on the street nearby were struck by gunfire. One occupant of one of the vehicles received minor injuries from shattered glass; he was evaluated by medical personnel on scene and subsequently declined transport to the hospital.
The three Burlington officers immediately secured the knife, handcuffed Johnson, applied first aid and summoned rescue crews. Johnson was stabilized on scene and taken by ambulance to the University of Vermont Medical Center.
Per Burlington Police Department policy, the officer who fired his weapon has been placed on paid administrative leave. Following standard procedure, the Vermont State Police will identify the officers involved on the day after the shooting.
On Thursday, August 11, an 18-year-old driver was shot in the torso while his car was in a Shelburne Road, Burlington shopping center parking lot. Details are uncertain, according to a WCAX report.
Street minister with cross witnessed Saturday AM shooting – Marcus Szczecinski, a street minister to Burlington’s homeless, reported to Vermont Daily Chronicle that he and his son “were across the street from the shooting when it happened. I was praying. Then the shooter ran over to the street we were on. Afterwards, we went over to where all the police were..and I had the cross with me,” he explained. The cross appears in WCAX footage of the afermath of the shooting.
State troopers patrol Burlington downtown Saturday night – Following a request by the Burlington Police Department, the Vermont State Police agreed to detail 10 troopers to patrol the downtown core Saturday night.
The assignment of state troopers to Burlington came after a shooting that occurred early Saturday morning in downtown, state police say. The request for assistance was made in a formal letter sent early Saturday afternoon from Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad to Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police.
The goal of the detail was to supplement Burlington Police Department staffing and provide a high-visibility police presence in the city center during the particularly busy late-night and early morning hours. Ten troopers assigned to the Critical Action Team were in the city from roughly 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, to 2 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 14, when the bars closed. The troopers patrolled downtown on foot and were stationed at high-traffic locations.
Troopers in Burlington had a limited mission focused on downtown. They did not respond to routine calls for service or provide enforcement of minor infractions, which remained the responsibility of the Burlington Police Department. In the event of a critical incident, troopers would join Burlington police in responding as needed.
By calling upon members who were not previously scheduled to be on-duty and reallocating assignments, VSP took steps to minimize the effect of this operation on agency staffing elsewhere in the state.
“Law enforcement agencies across Vermont, as they are nationwide, are experiencing staffing shortages, including the Vermont State Police. However, VSP remains willing and able to assist communities with pressing patrol and investigatory needs and has provided similar assistance, though on a smaller scale, following requests from other police agencies,” Silverman said.