Business leaders and law enforcement officials in Vermont’s largest city are trying to reassure the public about safety on one of the state’s most-visited attractions, a day after the destination became a murder scene.
Wednesday afternoon, police responded to the intersection of Cherry and Church Streets in downtown Burlington following the report of a stabbing on the Church Street Marketplace.
Thursday morning, 36-year-old Louis Fortier pled not guilty to stabbing 43-year-old Richard Medina to death.
Judge James Crucitti ordered Fortier jailed without bail.
According to a police report, Medina suffered several knife wounds to the neck and back.
Both the suspect and victim were homeless, police said.
Medina had more than 125 involvements with Chittenden County police agencies, according to Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo, for intoxication, as a suspect in assaults, mental health calls, and other concerns.
Investigators said Fortier had a long criminal record from the Boston area before he came to Burlington as a transient, and that his attack on Medina was a targeted, not random, act.
A day after the killing, del Pozo said he is confident the Church Street Marketplace district is a safe place for locals and visitors alike.
“Nobody should have hesitation about coming to the Church Street Marketplace,” del Pozo said. “It’s where I bring my family—my young children—to do their shopping and dining all the time.”
Del Pozo said his department and street outreach partners have had success lately in cutting complaints of vagrancy, aggressive panhandling, and public drunkenness, especially in the area of Cherry Street.
Still, many in the city see mental health services in the Burlington area as stressed from an increase of calls.
“I bring young children here,” said Patrice McDonough, an educator from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom who was visiting Church Street with a group of students Thursday. “It’s home. Vermont is home, so it is where I feel safe.”
McDonough said learning of the killing on the marketplace does not change her overall sense of safety visiting Burlington.
“The downtown, overall, has been really, really safe in the last 20 to 30 years,” said Ron Redmond, the executive director of the Church Street Marketplace. “These kinds of situations are, again, terrible, and shocking, and I can’t apologize or excuse them. But at the same time, I can reassure [visitors] that the downtown is well-protected; there’s lots of people looking out for people’s safety and security.”
Chief del Pozo said his officers are about to increase their foot patrols of the marketplace, as they do every year when the weather gets nicer.