Home News and Features Confirmed: School Bus Gunshot Came from Encampment Country Club Road Shelter...

Confirmed: School Bus Gunshot Came from Encampment
Country Club Road Shelter Opens Nov. 15

The scene on Home Farm Way Friday evening, Oct. 27, when the city of Montpelier cleared out a homeless encampment from which a shot was allegedly fired that hit a U-32 school bus with students in it. Nobody was hurt, but police are still investigating. Photo by John Lazenby.
Police investigated what appears to be the accidental shooting of a bullet through an occupied school bus windshield on Oct. 26, and determined the shot definitely came from a homeless encampment on Home Farm Way, off Route 2 near the the East Montpelier Road railroad crossing. Nobody was harmed, and no arrests have been made, but the Montpelier Police Department confiscated eight guns from the encampment and cleared it out the next day. 

“The Vermont Fish and Wildlife provided a bullet trajectory specialist who confirmed, what we had initially believed, that the discharge had come from the area of the encampment located on Home Farm Way,” stated a press release from Montpelier Police Chief Eric Nordenson on Monday, Oct. 30. “At this time, there is no cause to believe anyone on the school bus was intentionally targeted and there is no ongoing threat to the public associated with this incident.”

Fraser said some of the people living in the Home Farm Way encampment may have relocated to the city Park and Ride on Dog River Road in Montpelier. While Good Samaritan Haven Co-Director Rick DeAngelis said in an interview last week that there was dangerous activity — including the guns — at the Home Farm Way encampment, Fraser pointed out that “Most of the encampments have been relatively incident free.”

The city’s Country Club Road property is expected to open as an emergency homeless shelter starting Nov. 15, according to city manager William Fraser.

People without housing have been camping throughout central Vermont all summer, but the numbers increased significantly when pandemic-era funding for motel housing programs ended in June of this year. Since then homeless advocates and street outreach workers have been helping displaced people find camping sites, tents, and other survival equipment. 

Fraser said the city has been checking on the encampments in town “on a regular basis,” and other than the most recent incident, “by and large we have not had big problems.”

The guns found on Home Farm Way are confiscated temporarily, he said. “Obviously people are allowed to own guns, but they’re checking on them to see if they were stolen”

A Significant Delay

The Montpelier Police Department (MPD) reported a “significant delay” between the shooting and when the police department was notified. First Student, the company that provides busing to U-32, “removed the students, changed buses, and returned to their headquarters prior to law enforcement arrival,” police said.

“The safety of our employees and the students we transport is a responsibility we take very seriously. We are thankful no one was hurt in the incident,” said Jen Biddinger, First Student communications manager, in an email to The Bridge. 

“The First Student staff/bus driver made student safety their immediate priority before, during, and after the incident,” stated the Oct. 30 release from the MPD.

Up until the July flood, people had been camping on the property, which is next to the Winooski River off Route 2 near Agway and where the city-run FEAST Farm had been located, although the city does not own the property. After the flood, FEAST Farm was relocated to the city’s Country Club Road property, but the encampment returned, and apparently grew. 

Incidents Were Escalating

In the days and weeks leading up to the shooting, reports of incidents coming from the encampment had been “escalating” according to David Ide, owner of Montpelier Agway, next door to the site. It didn’t register as an issue to the farm-and-garden business until this week, when “they started to yell at us that ‘we hear you’ and ‘shut up’ and things like that,” Ide said. “They cross our parking lot all the time” and have started using the Agway nursery water supply to wash clothes, he said.

But Ide said it wasn’t until recently — when he noticed “they’re starting to build things there, and they’re entering the old house and … breaking windows” — that he started contacting the city of Montpelier to voice his concerns. After several phone calls, he said, he was able to reach city manager Fraser on Friday.

According to the release, the Montpelier assessor shows the owner of the property as Food Works, a Vermont nonprofit organization, and added “the owner of the property has not requested the removal of the encampment since it has been established.” The last post on Food Works’ Facebook page is dated Sept. 22, 2013, and its website link no longer works. 

“The city did not approve camping on the site because it is not owned by the city,” Fraser wrote in an email to The Bridge. “Our policy calls for tolerance unless people are being disruptive.”

Police also said they are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on the investigation as well as with U-32 staff members, the Vermont State Police, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Berlin Police Department to further the investigation. 

Police ask that anyone with additional information contact the MPD at 802-223-3445.