Shooting suspect pleads not guilty

VERGENNES — Raymond William White, 34, of Vergennes on Monday pleaded not guilty in Addison Superior Court, Criminal Division, to a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he allegedly shot a man on Sunday morning at his First Street home in Vergennes.
The victim, a 42-year-old man, was in “critical, but stable condition” at the UVM Medical Center in Burlington on Monday, according to Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel.
The Independent is not identifying the victim or a third man involved because of an ongoing investigation and unsubstantiated allegations of illegal activity made by White in court documents.
The victim was initially taken to Porter Hospital, then airlifted to UVM Medical Center on Sunday after White allegedly shot him once with birdshot from a 12-gauge shotgun, according to an affidavit filed by Vergennes police.
Vergennes police first responded to the incident in the mobile home park off Panton Road at about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. They allege the shotgun blast struck the victim in the wrist and abdomen.
The affidavit tells a complicated story leading to Sunday’s shooting. According to the affidavit, White believed a third man and the victim had been holding his longtime girlfriend against her will since Jan. 1. Per the document, White described his girlfriend as an addict and claimed the other two men were providing her with drugs.
According to the documents, White and had been negotiating the sale of his truck to another man involved so that White would be allowed to talk to her. Negotiations included offers by the victim’s alleged accomplice of crack cocaine for payment, per court documents.
White claimed the men allowed him to talk to his girlfriend on Jan. 7, and that she sounded distressed. White reported the call to both Vergennes and Vermont State Police.
On Jan. 8, his girlfriend spoke to police and said she was safe and not interested in seeing White, according to the affidavit.
In the meantime, according to the affidavit, White said that at 3 a.m. on a day he could not exactly recall, the two men in question were “standing over him” when he woke up and “threatened to kill him if he continued to call the police.” At that point White agreed to sell the truck to the victim’s alleged accomplice.
On Sunday morning, a fourth man drove the victim to White’s home to pick up the truck, according to the affidavit, after the third man promised earlier that morning White would be allowed to see the girlfriend.
White said the victim on Sunday morning had entered his trailer along with the fourth man, according to White’s testimony in the affidavit, and he was in his bedroom when he heard them enter.
At that point, per the document, White picked up his shotgun and loaded it with birdshot, he said, “because he knew birdshot would not kill the person if he had to shoot someone.”
An argument in the home’s living room followed because, according to the affidavit, his girlfriend was not there and the victim was insisting on the keys to the truck.
Eventually, the affidavit stated, “White said the victim was moving aggressively towards White. White said he was ‘terrified’ and believed the victim was going to take his gun from him.”
After words were exchanged, according to the affidavit, White pulled the trigger. He also told police he had the shotgun because he was worried the two men who had threatened him would kill him.
The first to respond to the scene was the sole Vergennes Police officer on duty, Officer Mark Barber.
Barber said he spoke briefly with the victim and the fourth man who had driven him there, and while he did so White came out of the home and sat on its porch. At that point Barber arrested him, while making note the unloaded gun was on the ground nearby.
Merkel said Barber had no way of immediately knowing exactly what had happened or what level of risk he faced, including whether there was anyone else inside the trailer or what their intent might be.
White did surrender without resisting arrest, however, and backup soon arrived in the form of several members of the city police force and VSP. Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans also arrived, as did the Vergennes Area Rescue Squad.
Merkel praised everyone’s response, but singled out Barber for “doing a phenomenal job” securing the scene and making the arrest while working alone in nerve-wracking circumstances with many unknowns.
When Barber responded, the information he had is that the victim was outside, and “there was somebody inside the trailer with a gun,” Merkel said, calling it a “potentially life-threatening situation.”
“You’ve got an officer, by himself, arresting somebody. And you’ve got a guy lying down, bleeding, obviously severely injured, and you’ve got another guy there, too. And the officer all by himself, dealing with three people,” Merkel said.
“An officer has to be able to think quickly, make split-second decisions, make sure he or she interprets the situation properly, so they comprehend what they think they actually see.”
Investigators were on the scene on Sunday until after midnight and planned to return to First Street on Monday to continue the investigation, he said.
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call Vergennes Police at 802-877-1152.

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