State police say they're making progress into shootings in Derby

01/02/09 5:51PM By Charlotte Albright
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(Host) State police say they're pleased with the pace and progress of their investigation into a string of shootings at buildings in the Northeast Kingdom.

No one has yet been hurt, but the shooter is still at large. Police refuse to say whether they have a suspect in the rampage, which began in late November and continued until just before Christmas.

VPR's Charlotte Albright has more.

(Albright) The first bullets hit a private residence in Derby on November 21. The most recent target was the Newport Country Club, on December 22. Between those two dates, shots also damaged two other Derby homes, a private vehicle, the State Police barracks in Derby, and three churches.

At the Church of God in Derby, Pastor Larry Hall noticed the shattered glass doors on a Friday afternoon, but assumed the damage had been done by a plow driver, or maybe some kids moving stage sets. It wasn't until Sunday morning, as parishioners filed into church, that he learned the awful truth:

(Hall) ``Well we got looking it over again more closely and a few of the men said these are, these are bullet holes, and then at that particular time we called the state police and they came down and confirmed and also told us that the church across the way had been targeted, also.''

(Albright) That same day, Pastor Hall asked his congregation to pray for the miscreants-whoever they turn out to be:

(Hall) ``There are some who don't understand that and want retribution and so forth. But that's the police's job, they'll take care of that. Our job is to help people and to pray for those who need help, and obviously that's what they need. So we do our job and let the police do theirs.''

(Albright) The state police are getting help from local sheriffs, the U.S. Border Patrol, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Ballistics tests are being conducted on more than 20 rounds of ammunition from handguns-all 40 calibre-voluntarily surrendered by local owners willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

State Police Detective Jean-Paul Sinclair, based in St. Johnsbury, acknowledges that those guns are not likely to belong to the perpetrator. But he says local residents have been very helpful during interviews. Sinclair won't say whether any suspects have been identified, but he is pleased with the progress of the probe, and notes that over a week has passed since the last shooting:

(Sinclair) ``Our greatest concern is the potential that this holds, if this is being done as a simple thrill of vandalism, the consequences are enormous - if something goes bad with this, absolutely enormous - and I hope that message has gotten out there very clearly to the person who is responsible.''

(Albright) While Lieutenant Sinclair hopes that the shootings will stop, he says the investigation will continue. The next stage, he says, will be to look beyond gun shops to private sellers and buyers, and to continue interviews in the affected communities. Local residents are alarmed, he says, but they are getting on with their lives.

For VPR News, I'm Charlotte Albright, in Derby.




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