BURLINGTON — Chittenden County prosecutors say they want an 18-year-old gunman involved in a shooting inside a crowded mall in South Burlington held as a danger to the community, but also want his criminal case transferred to juvenile court.
Tyshane Smith of Burlington, who fled to Florida after the Feb. 1 shooting at the University Mall, appeared briefly for his arraignment in Vermont Superior Court on Friday. He fired at least 5 shots, South Burlington Police said.
A public defender entered not guilty pleas for Smith, who was arrested in Miami last month due to charges of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, according to police.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George’s office filed a preliminary motion to transfer the criminal case to the Family Division to have Smith considered as a “youthful offender” and put his court proceedings behind closed doors. He was arrested as an adult.
Deputy State’s Attorney Zachary J. Chen in his written motion did not elaborate on why the office was making the special request. It was unclear what, if any, kind of criminal record Smith, formerly of New Jersey man had collected.
George did not respond to a phone message seeking comment after the court hearing.
During the hearing, Deputy State’s Attorney Franklin Paulino, who was filling in for Chen, argued Smith needed to be held without bail as a danger to the community.
Paulino said there was a further risk of violence, evidence of guilt was great that he discharged a firearm at Gabriel Williams, 18, multiple times inside a crowded mall.
Paulino said there were no known conditions to prevent further risk of violence by Smith.
Vermont Superior Court Judge Alison Arms agreed to hold Smith without bail. She noted that Smith fired three times at Williams and then proceeded to run through the mall firing additional shots. At least one innocent bystander, Alexander Stokes, 18, was wounded, the judge noted. She also said there were several videos of the incident.
Arms took under advisement the request to consider Smith a “Youthful Offender” and to transfer the case to Family Court. She said she would have a hearing in adult court, where proceedings are public.
The new Youthful Offender statute was approved by the legislature with little notice about a year ago. Transferring the adult case to Family Court would allow the shooting to be removed from Smith’s criminal record when he turns 22, officials said.
Authorities have said the shooting appears to involve two groups of youths, some of which are members of the Riverside Gang in Burlington.
Detective Tanner Palermo said in a court affidavit that witnesses reported Smith had robbed Williams’ girlfriend and also robbed a CBD store operated by the Williams family.
Smith left behind the 9-mm firearm believed used in the shooting as he and his associates fled the Dorset Street mall, which was busy with shoppers and diners, police said.
The source of the gun used in the shooting has not been disclosed.
South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke clearly was not happy with the move by George.
“I do not feel the case is suitable for Family Court,” Burke said. He said Smith “showed a complete indifference to the public” by firing multiple shots in a crowded mall.
Burke said he plans to reach out to George on Monday to discuss the case.
This is one of the latest major cases that George has opted to try to keep out of adult court. George declined to charge Isabel Seward, 16, of Atlanta, Ga. in adult court after state police said she killed two adults when her vehicle crossed the double yellow line on U.S. 7 and slammed into another car last September.
The case ended up in Family Court where the final outcome is unknown. The Vermont State Police did issue Seward a $220 ticket in traffic court for failing to stay in her lane during the double-fatal crash. Her mother paid the fine, court records show.
More than 60 law enforcement officers in marked and unmarked police cruisers responded to the shooting, along with members of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The mall was shut down for several hours as law enforcement conducted a thorough grid search of the shopping complex seeking the gunman, his associates and possibly injured persons. Some employees and customers hid in closets and storage areas. Others fled to their vehicles causing major traffic congestion.
Smith was arrested last month after a massive nationwide search by federal, state, county and local law enforcement officials. He also faced a felony drug count in Florida, but that was dropped to allow for the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department to return him to Vermont on Thursday evening.
He was lodged at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.
Law enforcement said Smith had tried to dispute his identity to investigators when arrested in Florida. The investigators used truth-testing techniques, including fingerprints to confirm Smith’s identity.