Neighbors hold vigil to support family of beaten teenager

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 8:44 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:02 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Residents in a New North End neighborhood in Burlington on Tuesday rallied around a teen who they say was the victim of a brutal attack. Now, community members say they fear for the safety of all their children.

Neighbors on Pleasant Avenue near Starr Farm Park held a candlelight vigil outside a family’s home in solidarity with their son. The teen’s family wishes to remain anonymous.

“It’s just horrible to see this happen to great people,” said Mike Hecht, who attended the vigil.

Burlington Police confirmed to WCAX News that they are investigating an aggravated assault that happened on the residential street Tuesday, Jan. 17. They said it appeared there was a physical altercation involving multiple teenagers from several different schools. Police aren’t releasing many details because they are minors, but they said at least one of the teens went to the hospital with injuries.

Pleasant Avenue residents who witnessed the incident said they saw a group of teens in two cars descend upon the house at about 9:30 p.m. and start a fight outside.

The alleged victim’s mother shared photos of her 18-year-old son Jona’s injuries, including deep face lacerations, a black eye and a possible concussion.

“They just moved in not too long ago and in the last two-and-a-half years, they’ve become some of our closest friends... We’re here to support you, we’re here to love you, and whatever happens, happens. but at least we’re all here,” said Hecht, who lives across the street.

Jona’s father, who said he was there when his son was injured, said he thought he lost Jona that night when he saw him lying on the ground.

He told the crowd, “Now we feel we are not alone” and “I never thought something like that would happen in our community and to our family.”

“It feels a lot like somebody broke into your home. You just feel violated. You feel like something was taken from you. And it’s the identity of our community, it’s shifting and it’s not heading in the direction that’s positive, and that’s been an ongoing trend for a while,” Hecht said.

WCAX News is working to learn more about the circumstances leading up to and during the aggravated assault.