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FBI behind South Burlington search - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

FBI behind South Burlington search

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

An undercover drug sting goes awry outside a busy Burlington grocery store. But is the case connected to a search Wednesday in South Burlington?

Nearly 20 state troopers and federal agents spent hours off of Spear Street in South Burlington Wednesday afternoon using sticks to comb through leaves and other roadside debris. But they would not say what they were looking for.

Three police dogs were also on the scene. State police referred our questions to the FBI -- which had no comment. The U.S. Attorney for Vermont also declined to talk about the case.

At the same time, a man was brought into federal court charged with distributing drugs. According to an affidavit, authorities arrested Erik Downs after a sting operation in the parking lot of a Burlington supermarket.

Court papers show an undercover police officer arranged to meet Downs outside the Price Chopper on Shelburne Road Tuesday evening. Downs allegedly gave the officer a large quantity of crack cocaine. In exchange, the undercover cop gave him $4,000 and a handgun.

The officer told Downs he needed to get the gun's magazine from his trunk -- a signal to his law enforcement partners. Downs stayed in his car and police surrounded him in the busy parking lot with their weapons drawn. But instead of making an arrest, court papers say Downs sped off, nearly hitting an FBI agent and leading police on a car chase.

Authorities say Downs tossed the gun and the cash out the window as he sped away. He was arrested about three hours later after a Vermont State Trooper spotted his car on Interstate 91.

But federal authorities have declined to comment on a connection between the sting and the search for evidence in South Burlington. 

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