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2 men plead not guilty in fatal shooting at Burlington’s City Hall Park – Brospar Daily News

Two suspects pleaded not guilty in Burlington court earlier Thursday to charges related to the shooting death of a 32-year-old Pennsylvania man in City Hall Park earlier Sunday.

Christopher Crawford, 42, of Sicklerville, NJ, has been charged with the first degree murder of Brian C. Rogers II of Philadelphia, court documents show. Joseph K. Craig, 59, of Swanton, has been charged with aiding in first degree murder.

Crawford, whose criminal record includes eight felonies, is also wanted by New Jersey authorities, police said.

after a day they were arrested Burlington police say the pair appeared with their public defender in Chittenden County Superior Court, away from the Northwestern State Correctional Center in St. Albans. Judge Alison Arms ordered that the accused not be released on bail until a new hearing is scheduled.

If convicted, they each face up to 35 years in prison to life without the possibility of parole.

Rogers recently moved to Burlington and the suspect does not live in Vermont, Acting Police Chief Jon Murad said Thursday afternoon at a Burlington Police Department news conference.

He called the shooting a “ruthless detective” and a “very, very concerning” incident. It came with a heavy police presence, including four Burlington officers and six state troopers on patrol, as it was the first weekend after most students had returned, Murad said.

“We were able to respond to a shooting within seconds, but despite having so many law enforcement officers present, this individual was ready to take that action,” he said.

Murad said police were still looking for a motive but “a strong suspicion” of drugs and “drug trafficking”. They are also investigating whether Crawford was banned from possessing firearms due to previous convictions and where the firearms he possessed came from.

According to a probable cause affidavit prepared by the Burlington Police Department. Rogers’ girlfriend, Oren Byrnes, said she was sitting on a stone wall near the Burlington Art Institute next to Rogers when someone approached from behind. Burns wrote that Rodgers “was shot twice in the back of the neck at close range without warning.”

Police were then able to see the suspect’s movements through security camera footage prior to the shooting, Burns said, writing that Crawford was “waiting for Rogers to be murdered.”

Photo of the suspect walking in downtown Burlington, minutes before the September 4, 2022 shooting, taken from security video. Image of court documents

Burns wrote that footage showed Crawford entering City Hall Park nearly 20 minutes before the shooting and looking in Rogers’ direction. He then left, walked around the area and returned at around 12:40 p.m., when he shot Rogers, according to the affidavit.

As people fled the scene, another man was seen exiting a darkened car towards the scene of the shooting. According to the affidavit, which was later identified as Craig, he “looked for a while, turned around and walked a short distance, then turned around and looked for a while, then walked back” towards the car.

At around 12:42 p.m., security footage showed Crawford “heading north on St. Paul Street” and sitting in the driver’s seat in the back of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.

Detectives found a car matching the description and parked it in the area of ​​College and Church streets around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Detective Burns responded and identified the driver as Craig.

According to the affidavit, Craig said he knew one of the two men in the back seat was “Mike” in jail. After police noticed “Mike” looked like the suspect’s video and photos, he told them he had a gun in his bag and verbally identified himself as Crawford. Police found him under arrest warrant in New Jersey for failing to appear in court on a charge of selling cocaine. The two were arrested on Wednesday and taken to the police station, according to the affidavit.

According to the affidavit, Craig told police after his arrest that he had known Crawford “for a few weeks” and that Crawford was living with another person in Winooski. He also said he drove Crawford and two “nephews” to St Albans “where they were selling illegal drugs”.

Craig also told police he was at the scene on Sunday and took Crawford with him, but did not witness the shooting because the public restroom blocked his view. He said he approached the scene to inspect and was briefly detained by state troopers, but continued, according to the affidavit.

Joseph Craig appeared remotely Thursday at the Vermont Superior Court Northwestern State Correctional Facility in Burlington. Photo by Auditi Guha/VT Digger

According to the affidavit, Crawford denied murdering Rogers. He said he was in the area before the shooting, but did not linger long and acknowledged that photos taken from security cameras that night were his.

At a news conference Thursday, officials said they had no further information about the suspect’s time or relationship in jail or why police brought Craigella in on Wednesday.

“What we do know is that they met in jail and have been interacting since they were released, but I don’t know when that was,” the Chittenden County District Attorney said. Sarah George.

Targeted shots like this can be rare and isolated, “but I know our community cares about it,” Murad told a news conference. “I know people are scared of what is happening. We are concerned about where the city is headed with certain types of crime…especially shootings.

Prosecutor George said holding suspects without bail “is the most punitive thing we can do. We have used it in all cases where someone has been arrested for a shooting, and will continue when we have evidence. This way.”

Mayor Miro Weinberger called for greater intercity and interagency engagement, noting that downtown communities are working to improve security, such as the Burlington Business Association which is trying to restore security details.

Officers discuss the September 4 homicide during a press conference Thursday, September 8, 2022 at the Burlington Police Department at One North Street. Left to right: Alex Schmidt, resident agent in charge of the FBI’s Burlington branch; Alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives; Sarah George, Chittenden County State’s Attorney; Burlington Mayor Milo Weinberg; and Interim Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad. Photo by Auditi Guha/VT Digger

In a brief introduction, Murad said that from 2012 to 2019, Burlington averaged two shootings per year. (He defines those incidents as instances where a gun is fired in a criminal manner that police suspect.) Sunday’s 12 homicides in 2020 and 14 in 2021 are the city’s 23rd shootings this year.

About six of them could not be solved, and 12 involved a shot person, three of which were murders, Murad said. He noted that Burlington police made arrests in 13 of those 23 cases, including seven of the 12 in which someone was shot.

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