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Three more Burlington shootings – Smokies patrol downtown Saturday night

Burlington suffered another violent weekend as understaffed police were forced to shoot a knife-wielding attacker Saturday afternoon, state police say.

The incident was the 21st firearm incident this year. #19 took place Thursday night when a teenaged driver was shot in the torso in a parking lot Thursday night. #20 occurred when two people suffered injuries after being shot near Burlington’s City Hall Park early Saturday morning – during the timeframe in which Burlington police have minimal staffing available for emergency responses.

Following incident #20, Burlington police requested and received patrol assistance from the Vermont State Police Saturday night, VSP spokesperson Adam Silverman said. The Burlington Police Department is shortstaffed due to the national shortage of law enforcement officers and what city police say is a hostile city government. The City Council voted in 2020 to significantly reduce police patrol funding and only voted to restore funding last month after the city agreed to add heightened civilian oversight to the department.

Saturday afternoon, the city temporarily lost yet another patrol officer, seven year veteran Sgt. Simon Bombard, after he was placed on mandatory paid administrative law following his shooting of David Johnson, 20, in Manhattan Drive in Burlington’s Old North End Saturday afternoon. Police say Johnson was waving a knife and expressing suicidal thoughts before rushing police. Wounded by Bombard’s gunshot, Johnson was detained and treated by police before being transported to the hospital.

An initial review by VSP detectives shows that three BPD officers responded shortly before 3 p.m. to a brief 911 call that reported an unspecified emergency at 249 Manhattan Drive. The officers encountered David Johnson, 20, outside the Burlington home at that address where he lives. He was carrying a large kitchen knife and had made statements about wanting to end his life.

Evidence reviewed by VSP, including footage from body-worn cameras, shows that the officers attempted to establish a rapport with Johnson, whom they knew from previous interactions, and attempted to de-escalate the situation. About four minutes after the police arrived, Johnson charged at one of the officers. That officer was carrying and deployed a conducted electrical weapon, which did not slow Johnson. At the same time, another officer fired his department-issued handgun, striking Johnson one time in the upper left leg.

In the course of the shooting, two occupied vehicles parked on the street nearby were struck by gunfire. One occupant of one of the vehicles received minor injuries from shattered glass; he was evaluated by medical personnel on scene and subsequently declined transport to the hospital.

The three Burlington officers immediately secured the knife, handcuffed Johnson, applied first aid and summoned rescue crews. Johnson was stabilized on scene and taken by ambulance to the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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