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Cops provide photo of suspect in brutal day-time beating

by Guy Page,

In the absence of the Vermont criminal justice system’s ability or willingness to jail many violent suspects, especially in the downtown Burlington area, Queen City residents and visitors are asking if they can at least be warned about what possible repeat offenders look like.

At the request of the Vermont Daily Chronicle, the Burlington Police Department has provided the mugshot photo of the man charged with taking off his shirt, handing it to a female onlooker, and then punching an 82-year-old man in the head, knocking him unconscious, May 18 in broad daylight in downtown Burlington.

Shawn McConnell, 41, a transient was cited and released the same day as the incident. Around 2:15 PM, BPD received calls that a man had been seen attacked by another on South Winooski Avenue, near the intersection with College Street. Police say the perpetrator, a man in his prime, approached the unsuspecting octogenarian (82) and unleashed a single, devastating punch. The force of the blow robbed the victim of consciousness, causing him to crumple to the sidewalk. The victim was soon hospitalized and McConnell arrested a few blocks away.

The same weekend, Michael Reynolds – a man known to VDC readers as a transient with 1700 police encounters since 2012 – was arrested for attacking city rescue workers making a ‘welfare check,’ VDC reported.

The court decision to almost immediately release McConnell – a veteran of 50 police engagements including another sidewalk attack on a male passerby this February – provoked an email from a VDC reader, which was then passed to BPD public affairs officer Sarah Timm.

“How are folks supposed to avoid people if they don’t know what they look like.. Seems like a public safety issue,” reader David G. said. “I don’t know how it would happen but it seems like unconfined violent offenders should have their photos and information posted all over the place in the public interest. Bulletin boards, telephone poles, any and everywhere…This would help people avoid being confronted, assaulted, aid in reporting an incident to 911/ law enforcement AND discourage perps from being in public AND discourage others from committing crimes if they knew their face/ info would be made public.”

The reader asked, “Why isn’t BPD publishing mug shots, and would you consider doing so given the ramped up concern for public safety re Reynolds, Walls [repeat offender Nicholas Walls, arrested Tuesday after violently resisting arrest], and McConnell?”

VDC generally publishes mug shots as provided. However, BPD does not routinely provide them with their press statements. We inquired and received this response from Timm: “When local media partners request booking photos, I am able to provide those when available for the incident in which the press release covered. As such, I have attached Shawn McConnell’s booking photo for you from the most recent incident covered in our press release. (There are no booking photos for Reynolds and Walls’ most recent incidents).”

Part of the problem is Vermont bail laws that don’t allow suspects to be held for violent misdemeanors. “We need to explore other options for people like this,” Police Chief Jon Murad told the City Council this week. “We need to understand there are some individuals whose constant, repetitive, dangerous behavior lands them in a place where jail is the safest place for them and for us as a community.”

Asked by VDC at his press conference yesterday, Gov. Scott said such incidents “keep me awake at night” and referred his administration’s response to Public Safety Commissioner Jen Morrison, who said that the bail reform in S.58 is a step towards resolving Vermont’s ‘catch and release’ problem.


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