A man from Pennsylvania accused in a drive-by shooting in Vermont has denied a charge of aggravated assault with a weapon.
Michael Filinuk, 33, of Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, is accused of shooting a woman from his SUV Saturday night, after she loaded Christmas purchases into her car outside a Petco store in the Green Mountain Plaza in Rutland.
Filinuk's attorney entered a not guilty plea, and did not contest a motion from the Rutland County State's Attorney to hold the suspect without bail.
The woman identified in police paperwork as the shooting victim, 45-year-old Lisa Jameson of Rutland, wrote in a sworn statement to police that she had just put newly-purchased dog toys in the back of her car when something sounding like a firecracker "scared the living daylights" out of her. Then, Jameson wrote, she felt a stinging pain in her arm and she noticed the stuffing was coming out of a hole in her coat. She pulled it off to find blood, she told investigators.
Police accused Filinuk of shooting Jameson from his SUV, adding they found a bullet casing inside the vehicle and a 9-millimeter handgun in the glove box.
Hospital staff at Rutland Regional Medical Center treated Jameson's wound and released her, police said.
"He feels quite contrite about what happened," defense attorney Peter Langrock said of Filinuk after his brief arraignment Monday.
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Langrock said his client did not know the woman, but he could not say why Filinuk was in Vermont from Pennsylvania or what might have been going on in his mind Saturday night.
"I can tell you right now-- [he's] not a terrorist," Langrock said in response to a question from a reporter about a possible motive for the alleged drive-by. "No relation whatsoever. But I can't say any more than that."
In her motion to hold Filinuk without bail, Rutland County State's Attorney Rose Kennedy described the shooting as an apparently "totally random act of violence," noting there would be no way to predict if the suspect would strike again.
After the hearing, Kennedy aimed to calm nerves in her community. "Vermont State Police is on top of it and is investigating the crime," Kennedy told necn. "The community should feel secure that the State Police is thoroughly investigating the crime."
Back at the strip mall, shoppers were surprised a drive-by shooting would happen outside busy retailers' storefronts. However, such a rare act was not going to change shoppers' plans to run holiday errands, three told necn.
"You can't stop living; you can't," one of those shoppers, Caroline Bradley, said of her response to learning about the troubling circumstances of the shooting. "You've got to keep going."
The maximum punishment, if Filinuk is convicted on the felony charge of aggravated assault with a weapon, is 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, or both, Kennedy said.