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Burlington school caught in the crossfire in latest shooting

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 8:22 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 8:38 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Two Burlington schools were closed Friday morning after police discovered a bullet hole in a window of one of them, the 12th shooting downtown so far this year.

“There was a lot of screaming and yelling. It was really scary for us,” said Crystal Tavares, who heard the gunfire in the Main Street neighborhood.

According to the Burlington Police, officers were called to Edmunds Middle and Elementary School early Friday after staff at the school found a bullet hole in a third-story classroom window. It led school officials to abruptly cancel classes for the day, affecting hundreds of families.

“Had to make a quick call to make sure -- out of an abundance of caution really -- to make sure that we were keeping our community, our students, and our staff safe,” said Burlington School Superintendent Tom Flanagan. He says some students did show up but staff turned them around right away. He says because the incident happened overnight, no students or staff were in danger.

“We were able to locate an actual bullet that looks like it had come through the window, struck the wall, and bounced onto the floor,” said Burlington Police Acting Deputy Chief Wade Labrecque.

Officers and a Vermont Game Warden were on scene about a block from the school near the corner of Main Street and South Winooski Avenue, where police believe the shot came from -- nearly 700 feet away from the school.

Edmunds Middle and Elementary schools
Edmunds Middle and Elementary schools(WCAX)

With a dozen gunfire incidents in Burlington -- several in the last few weeks -- local businesses are worried. “We have concerns about overnight incidents, no question, anyone would be worried,” said Perry Sporn with Perrywinkle’s Fine Jewelry.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger released a statement pointing to the 30% police staffing cuts enacted by the City Council last year. “This high rate of gunfire incidents, that is such a significant departure from our norm, is unacceptable. It is clear that we need to urgently return resources to the police department and invest fully in the public safety services that Burlingtonians need and expect,” he said.

City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South, joined the mayor in opposing the staffing cuts supported by the Progressive majority on the council. “We’re in a position with a depleted and demoralized police force, and that will take years to rebuild, if that’s the direction the City Council decides to go in. But up to this point, the City Council has remained committed to defunding the police and to not increasing the size of the police department,” she said.

Both the mayor and police chief have been outspoken about the staffing cuts. We wanted to talk with them about specific actions the city is taking to address these overnight shootings, but neither were available for comment.

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