Burlington stabbing suspect says he’s the victim

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:03 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A Burlington man accused of stabbing a man who broke into his home faces up to 15 years in prison if he’s convicted. We want to know why the police did not consider this a case of self-defense.

Stabbing suspect William Dunn tells me his fiancee’s ex-boyfriend barged into their house unannounced and initiated a violent altercation-- an altercation that put the ex in the hospital.

Dunn says the police got it wrong-- he’s the victim in this case and he hopes prosecutors will see the situation from his perspective. Here’s what he says happened.

“This person came to where I was. I didn’t come to you. You came to my house. I didn’t go to your house. So why was I arrested?” Dunn said.

Burlington Police handcuffed Dunn, 37, at an apartment complex on Riverside Avenue on Dec. 2.

He’s accused of stabbing Najee McDowell, 27, at least five times. Dunn is charged with aggravated assault, his potential penalty up to 15 years in prison.

Reporter Christina Guessferd: Did you feel threatened?

William Dunn: Yes, I did. I had to fight for my life.

But when police arrived on the scene, it was McDowell suffering from life-threatening wounds and Dunn refused to answer their questions about what happened, so he was arrested.

Christina Guessferd: Why didn’t you immediately say to them this is self-defense?

William Dunn: Well, first of all, I was incoherent when they came.

Dunn says he was so traumatized by the situation, he couldn’t speak.

Later that night, Dunn told the police what happened. Still, police upheld the charge.

“He didn’t say anything about self-defense,” Burlington Deputy Police Chief Wade Labrecque said.

“Self-defense is ultimately a burden on the defendant to prove,” said Dan Richardson, a private practice attorney with Tarrant, Gillies, Richardson & Shems LLP, and the former president of the Vermont Bar Association.

Richardson says Dunn’s decision to keep quiet probably hurt his cause.

“Police are not going to have some of the key pieces of information that they might otherwise have or use to make an assessment,” Richardson explained. “To assert self-defense you’re basically asserting a justification for committing the act.”

In other words, did Dunn have a right to repeatedly stab McDowell in that situation?

“A lot of times what both prosecutors and defense attorneys will do is they’ll parse down the moment and they’ll say maybe the first stab was justified in self-defense, but after that first stab, based on the medical evidence that we received, there’s no way this person could have responded and the second, third and fourth stabs were in fact not justified,” Richardson said.

Christina Guessferd: You’ve been arraigned, you pleaded not guilty. What are you hoping is going to happen next?

William Dunn: I’m hoping that these charges will go away and I’ll continue to live my life productively and take care of my kids and move forward.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George tells me her team is waiting to get all evidence from the police. With that, they’ll determine whether they want to prosecute Dunn for aggravated assault or drop the case to a self-defense claim.

Burlington Police have not said whether McDowell will face charges for the intrusion.

The UVM Medical Center tells me McDowell is no longer a patient and was presumably released from care.

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