Bristol, Vermont – A fourteen-year-old White teenager was shot dead last Monday. Another fourteen-year-old, Hussein Mohamed, from Burlington, was arrested by Vermont State Police and charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Madden Gouveia of Shelburne.
Investigators said Mohamed—who is Black—was in possession of a handgun while sitting in the rear passenger-side seat of a parked vehicle outside a home on North Street in Bristol when a 9mm handgun discharged, striking Gouveia in the back as he sat in the front passenger seat. The findings of the joint investigation by Vermont State and Bristol Police reveal more about what happened after police responded to a 911 call around 7:20 p.m. on Monday.
According to a police affidavit, a juvenile male, whom police called “L.L.,” came out to meet the occupants of a vehicle parked outside a North Street home in Bristol and sat in the rear seat next to Mohamed. “L.L.” began showing off a 9 mm Smith & Wesson pistol that was allegedly stolen, per reports.
Gouveia passed the pistol back to “L.L.,” who told police he placed a single bullet in the magazine. L.L. said Mohamed then “grabbed the gun and racked it.” “L.L.” stated he managed to remove the magazine while Mohamed held it and was “waving the gun around, at which time it went off.”
The affidavit reported that the teens panicked, at which point the driver of the vehicle, Mason Bullock, 18, disposed of the pistol in a dumpster while “L.L” said he hid the magazine under his bed in the nearby apartment and agreed to claim it was a drive-by shooting and that Mohamed was in the house at the time of the shooting. The truth was soon unraveled when police noticed that the rear passenger window they allege the assailants shot through was still closed and intact.
First responders rendered aid to Gouveia at the scene before transporting him by ambulance to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m.
Mohamed will be tried as an adult by the Addison County State Attorney’s Office in Middlebury, where his public defender entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. For the crime, Mohamed is now facing charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, and manslaughter.
Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos argued that Mohamed should be held without bail.
“The waving around of this handgun led to the killing of one of the other youths in the car,” Vekos said. “Even though he is a juvenile, he is charged with a felony with the possibility of life imprisonment.”
Mohamed’s public defender, Jonathan Heppell, contended that he should be allowed to return home to his family. The defense also objected to court proceedings being held in public due to background information about Mohamed’s past legal issues being confidential as it involved the Department for Children and Families.
In court on Tuesday, delays relating to interpretation services for Mohamed’s Somali family members resulted in Judge David Fenster failing to rule on the issue of bail and the hearing postponed to Wednesday, November 1. After the state withdrew a request that morning to hold the 14-year-old suspect without bail, the judge agreed to release the teen to live with his parents with strict conditions, including a 24-hour curfew.
The next court hearing in the homicide case is scheduled for November 27. In the meantime, a GoFundMe was set up to cover funeral expenses for the family, still reeling from the tragic loss of their eldest brother in a 2020 accident.
“I never thought I would have to be planning my baby brother’s funeral when I tell you having to call the funeral home just about broke me,” said Madden’s sister, Nikki Worthern, in a heartfelt post on Facebook. “My heart is completely broken… I promise I will make sure he has the service he deserves if it’s the last thing I do.”
Gouveia’s murder marks the eighth homicide in Vermont for the month of October alone. According to detectives, the trend is “virtually unprecedented” in such a brief period of time.
Republican Governor Phil Scott announced during a weekly news conference with Vermont officials that while there are no direct connections to the eight suspicious homicides, many of them appeared to be “drug-related,” although investigations were still ongoing. Vermont State Police Director Matthew Birmingham noted the agency has been stretched thin, affecting the state’s ability to devote sufficient resources in each case.
“We have 51 sworn positions that are not filled. We have had to reallocate uniformed resources to assist with these homicides,” Birmingham stated.
While acknowledging that the state has been largely successful with its recent implementation of “red flag laws” and waiting period changes, Governor Scott announced he is open to discussing further gun control and mental health measures. The statement comes on the heels of a bloody mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, carried out by a mentally ill US serviceman that claimed the lives of 18 White people.
In addition to gun control, Governor Scott has long championed the strengthening of Vermont’s refugee resettlement program to address his state’s struggling rural economy and aging population.
Vermont has accepted an extraordinarily high number of refugees relative to its tiny population when compared to other U.S. states. Between 1989 and 2019, an estimated 8,000 refugees have been resettled in the Green Mountain state, particularly in the cities of Burlington and Winooski, with the majority of arrivals in the last decade hailing from Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. As of 2019, about 12% of all immigrants to Vermont were Africans.
The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugee, and Migration determines the number of refugees assigned to a state with input from state government consultation and resettlement agencies such as Vermont’s US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (formerly known as the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP)) and the newest agency, the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC).
Former VRRP director Judy Scott stated that refugees do not have a choice of state, but many end up residing in Vermont long-term.
“The major thing that people say is, ‘I’m so happy to be in a place that’s safe,’” Scott said.
These state-sanction resettlement efforts have contributed to the rapidly changing racial demographics in Burlington. Once a robust hub for Irish, German, British, and French Canadian immigrants, the city’s population was estimated at 15% non-white in 2018, with 1 out of 3 students in the Burlington School District being youth of color in the 2016-17 school year compared to fewer than 1 out of 10 students across the rest of the state.
According to a 2021 ECOS report, from 2010 to 2020, the total population in Chittenden County—where Burlington is situated—increased by nearly 12,000 people, or 7.5%, with 99.7% of the population growth over this time period attributed to an influx of exclusively non-white residents.
While Vermont still has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation, residents and state officials concur there has been a significant rise in gun violence in recent years. Since 2020, there has been a surge of shootings in Burlington, with 22 of the 51 “gunfire incidents” being traced back by police to members of immigrant families and non-white communities, with similar spasms of gun violence appearing across smaller towns in Vermont, such as Bennington.
Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger did not believe discussing the involvement of immigrant youth was “particularly relevant” to share publicly as he worried it would fuel so-called “racist stereotypes.”
Despite these “worries,” instances of violence stemming from non-White communities have only skyrocketed, worsening as unfettered immigration into the United States shows no signs of slowing down. In September, a star White athlete was shot dead outside of a Fort Worth nightclub. In response, Police arrested a Mestizo criminal on probation who later confessed to the crime. In October, a Mexican man living in Minnesota was charged with the violent kidnapping and gang rape of multiple underage girls. After an investigation, police apprehended 11 illegal immigrants on the same premises.
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