A Vermont man will not face criminal charges for his role in an alcohol-fueled fight that involved an innocent bystander getting shot.
Carl Martin, 33, of Colchester, had been cited to appear in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington Thursday, with Burlington Police recommending charges of reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and aggravated disorderly conduct for Martin.
However, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George announced her office would not bring charges against him.
Evidence showed Martin punched another man and threatened him with a gun outside a pair of bars on Main Street in downtown Burlington in February.
Investigators say Martin and Rashad Nashid, 37, of Burlington, had gotten into a fight about a woman and threats made to Martin’s brother.
State’s Attorney George said there is no doubt in her mind that Martin was acting irresponsibly and dangerously, but decided his actions the night in question amounted to self-defense and defense of his brother.
Nashid was described as the aggressor in the dispute. He also had a gun and opened fire toward Martin, but missed.
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The bullet ended up striking an innocent bystander on the sidewalk, police said. That victim suffered a serious physical injury and spent several months recovering, her family told necn affiliate NBC 5 News earlier this year.
While the state will not charge Martin, Nashid is being prosecuted. Accusations against him include a federal count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
The situation reignited conversations in Burlington about late-night safety.
“We should be lucky that things like this are so rare, yet we should be working so that they don’t ever happen,” said Burlington City Councilor Adam Roof, I-Ward 8, discussing the shooting outside the pair of Burlington bars.
The college town is widely thought of as one of New England’s safest small cities, but a handful of incidents in or around bars had Burlington looking to change its city charter a few years ago, to ban guns from places where alcohol is served.
While city voters approved of the idea, it never got the approval needed in the Vermont Legislature, so was not enacted.
Roof said he will press the city to maintain a focus on late-night safety, especially in the busy downtown.
“What we could do is work with individual businesses on whether or not they have protocols or procedures in place to keep their staff and patrons safe,” Roof said.
A half-dozen downtown Burlington bar owners approached by necn for this story declined to be interviewed, indicating they did not want to have their names associated with a news story on weapons in businesses.
Several of them did say they wondered how well the issue really could be regulated, asking if it really is possible to stop someone from bringing a knife or a gun inside a business.
Some Burlington bars and clubs already do have posted rules that no weapons are allowed inside their establishments, and security personnel at those businesses regularly ask patrons if they are carrying items their employers’ policies prohibit.
More than 90 minutes south of Burlington, in Rutland, the owner of a bar called Center Street Alley said earlier this year that she bought metal-detecting wands and started scanning customers after a pair of shootings near her business. No one was injured in those incidents.
“It makes me feel safe,” Brooke Lipman of Center Street Alley told NBC 5 News in May. “It makes me feel safe for my staff and my customers.”
On Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, a few bar and restaurant employees told necn Thursday that they rarely, if ever, worry at work–and said they hope things stay that way.
“I walk home at 3, 4 o’clock in the morning, and I normally have no troubles,” said Mike Lamphere, an employee of a prominent Church Street bar.
“When alcohol is involved—there’s normal risks that could happen, but a shooting’s pretty out of the norm,” said Albert Brown, who works at a longtime Church Street restaurant and bar. “I’d say that’s pretty atypical for Burlington. Most people are out just trying to have fun.”
In addition to the shot fired in February outside the Main Street bars that struck the bystander, another bullet went into a second-story apartment above a nearby pizza restaurant, according to investigators. That shot did not injure anyone.
State’s Attorney George, in declining to prosecute Martin, praised the Burlington Police Department detective for his diligent work investigating the case.