Stray Bullets Fly in Burlington Police Shooting

Police say there is no danger to the public at this time

An officer-involved shooting in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday night resulted in the death of a suspected drug dealer.

Burlington Police, state police and officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration executed a federal search warrant at 101 Elmwood Ave. around 7:15 p.m. in an effort to arrest 56-year-old Kenneth Stephens on a cocaine distribution charge.

After a team of officers knocked down the door with a battering ram, a state police trooper saw Stephens pointing a rifle direclty at him. The trooper yelled commands at Stephens and discharged multiple rounds from his patrol rifle. A DEA agent behind the trooper also discharged multiple rounds from his patrol rifle.

Stephens fell to the floor and was pronounced dead at the scene. He appeared to have sustained multiple gunshot wounds, according to the medical examiner. His muzzle loader rifle was loaded but was not fired.

No officers were injured. The two officers who fired their weapons in the exchange were later identified as Vermont State Trooper Matthew Cannon and DEA Special Agent Tim Hoffmann. Trooper Cannon remains on mandatory leave with as the investigation continues, per department policy. Hoffmann's status was not immediately clear Wednesday night. 

Detectives said they believe the two officers fired 13 rounds during the raid. 

At least two of those bullets appeared to have flown through the wall of one a neighbor's home -- nearby resident Nick Cioffi said he was sitting on the couch at home when he heard two loud blasts.

"It was loud, something hit the mess, and there was a mess inside," Cioffi told necn. "No glass. There's ltitle pieces of the window frame, and stuff like that."  

The execution of the search warrant and attempt to arrest Stephens came after a confidential source working with the DEA made four separate controlled purchases of heroin from Stephens in November and December.

State police said Stephens had several previous drug convictions, a burglary conviction and a conviction for the unlawful possession of a firearm.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, issued a written statement noting that while Burlington consistently is regarded as one of the nation's safest small cities, the scourge of opiate addiction remains a major problem.

“Mr. Stephens was a dangerous individual with a long record of engagement in serious violence and drug trafficking and we appreciate the critical work that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its Task Force performs in its attempts to protect Burlingtonians from the devastating impacts of opiates," Weinberger wrote in the statement. “At the same time, I am very concerned that bullets from the law enforcement operation left Mr. Stephens’ apartment and strayed into another home. I have had multiple calls with U.S. Attorney Eric Miller expressing this concern over the last twenty-four hours and at my direction, Chief Brandon Del Pozo met today with the DEA’s Special Agent in Charge of the New England Division and secured assurances that the DEA’s Office of Inspector General will perform a serious after action review of this incident so that all agencies involved in protecting the public in this City can benefit from its lessons.”

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