Man in "Grave" Condition After Shooting At Occupy Burlington Encampment (VIDEO) | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Man in "Grave" Condition After Shooting At Occupy Burlington Encampment (VIDEO)



UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: WCAX-TV is reporting the man has died.

The Occupy Burlington encampment remained roped off with police tape Thursday afternoon after a 35-year-old camper apparently shot himself in City Hall Park.

Burlington police said the man was in "grave" condition. Numerous occupiers told Seven Days they believed the man, who they know only as "Josh," was dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Earlier in the day, police were seen removing a body from one of the tents.

Deputy Chief Andi Higbee said police received a 911 call around 2 p.m. reporting gun shots in the park. Higbee said the victim was in "grave" condition and "receiving treatment at the hospital." Police have recovered a weapon and identified the victim but did not release his name pending notification of his family.

"We do not have any reason to believe the public is at risk," Higbee said, adding that the shooting happened "inside or nearby one of the tents."

By late afternoon, the future of the three-week-old Occupy Burlington encampment appeared in doubt. Mayor Bob Kiss planned to meet with key deputies about the incident this afternoon. Organizers of the movement huddled in the park to mourn and plot next steps.

Asked by a reporter if the shooting gives him pause about the future of the occupation, Higbee replied, "Yeah, I think that's a fair statement." (Video of Higbee's statement below the break).

Asked if he thinks it should be shut down, Higbee replied, "I don't think I'm at a point where I could characterize that. It certainly gives us cause for concern. Our responsibility is to keep the public safe and discharge of a firearm in a public place like this, you know, it gives me pause."


Occupier Todd Lacroix (pictured) said he heard the victim was a "mentally disturbed man, who had some drug issues, who had a gun."

"Waterbury got flooded out, the state funding for mentally ill is really breaking down and we here in the park have been a flame for the moths of people who are downtrodden," Lacroix said. "We're doing our best to deal with them and help them but we're not really equipped to deal with that type of people. That's why we have mental institutes for that type of people. But currently, ours is flooded out and the state doesn't really know what to do with them. So they're ending up here.

"So if the state could help us find a way to deal with this thing that they're not doing too well at dealing with, that would be really cool," Lacroix added.

Lacroix, who wore a Vermont Independent Media Center badge around his neck, said he is "very worried" about how the Occupy movement will be perceived once word of the shooting gets out.

"I don't feel some of the media has been very fair to us and it would be nice if they spent a little more time on the issues of why we're here than the homelessness that we're dealing with," he said, as a beeping police vehicle backed into the crime scene.


Another occupier, Hayley Mason of Burlington (pictured), said she knows the apparent suicide victim as "Josh" and said he arrived weeks ago.

"We've pretty much been on a first-name basis in the camp," she said, adding that she heard last night was his birthday. "He's been a part of this community. And this community has really set itself up to be a space where people that are isolated from different parts of society can fit in here. We've welcomed with open arms all sorts of people. So that necessarily attracts people who don't fit in.

"As far as the encampment, I don't know if we'll stay here or not, but the movement's going to continue, if not for Josh, the movement will continue because this is really a tragedy. It's really very sad to have this happen. We've all become very close in this community. But by being so open to all sorts of people, this sort of thing just comes along with it. And it's really too bad that he hadn't been taken care of the way that he needed to be."

Observing the crime scene, Mayor Bob Kiss said, "We have people making their way in difficult situations around the city and around the country. That's a fact. And so this might end up being a safer place than others. Certainly everyone in this group, I would guess, is part of the 99 percent."

Occupy Burlington organizers huddled and held hands in a circle (pictured below), talking and planning their next steps. Jonathan Leavitt, an organizer of the movement, declined to discuss the shooting "out of respect," he said.


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