Driver had sought medical help before I-89 wrong-way crash


BURLINGTON — The man police say is responsible for a wrong-way driving crash on I-89 that killed five teens over the weekend had sought medical help less than 24 hours earlier, court documents show.

Prosecutors have filed charges against Steven Bourgoin, 36, alleging that he was driving a northbound Toyota Tacoma that collided with the teens' car as they drove south.

The charges also allege that Bourgoin then stole a Williston cruiser that was part of the police response. He eventually drove the cruiser the wrong way through the original crash scene, striking numerous vehicles and injuring a handful of people, according to an affidavit supporting the charges.

The five teens all died as a result of the initial crash. The central Vermont high schoolers were mourned at a vigil Monday night.

Bourgoin is the primary suspect in a homicide investigation resulting from the crash, but Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan has yet to file homicide charges. Donovan said at a Monday news conference that the homicide investigation continues and his office wants to do a thorough job.

The charges filed Monday against Bourgoin are misdemeanor gross negligence and felony operation of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent. A warrant for Bourgoin's arrest was issued Monday and bail set at $1 million.

Donovan said Monday that Bourgoin was in critical condition at the University of Vermont Medical Center, where he was taken after the crash. A spokesman for the medical center said Bourgoin's condition was upgraded from critical to serious Tuesday morning.

The spokesman said that means his vital signs are improving, but he was not able to say whether Bourgoin was awake. The hospital is not able to release more detailed information than the one-word descriptions of a patient's condition, the spokesman said.

When Bourgoin crashed the stolen police cruiser into the wrecked Toyota Tacoma, he was thrown from the cruiser, court documents say, but they describe his injuries as "non-life threatening."

In the affidavit supporting the charges, Vermont State Police Detective Benjamin Katz writes that Bourgoin was at the medical center Saturday. Security video shows Bourgoin entering and exiting the hospital's emergency room three times between 8:45 a.m. and 11:05 a.m.

Katz writes that Howard Center, the designated mental health services provider for the region, was called about Bourgoin's situation but did "not screen him." Bourgoin was seen by a physician assistant at the hospital, according to Katz, but the affidavit provides no information about what brought Bourgoin to the emergency room that day.

At Monday's news conference Donovan did not provide further detail on why Bourgoin was seeking medical attention or why Howard Center was contacted, according to media reports.

In an interview with detectives, Anila Lawrence, an ex-girlfriend of Bourgoin, described him as "being angry and having mood swings," adding that their relationship had changed after the birth of their daughter in February 2015.

Lawrence and Bourgoin moved back to Vermont from Massachusetts in October 2015, according to the affidavit. Bourgoin has convictions for driving under the influence in New York (2002) and domestic assault in Massachusetts (2014), according to Donovan's office.

A toxicology report for Bourgoin has not been released, but Donovan has said there's no evidence to this point that alcohol was involved.

Bourgoin is facing domestic assault and unlawful restraint charges in Chittenden County, stemming from an incident in May where he allegedly pulled a woman's hair and pushed her to the floor. In that incident, Bourgoin drove erratically, threatening at one point to "drive us all off into a pond," the woman told police.

Bourgoin was set to go to trial on those charges Nov. 7, and Donovan's office filed an emergency request to increase his bail to $250,000 in that case Monday morning.

According to the affidavit, Lawrence told the detective, "When (Bourgoin) gets in his moods, he does not think clearly, and has no regard for those around him, even loved ones. When Steven is in these moods, it is usually because he ran out of marijuana, which he used to stabilize his mood swings. It was always very evident when he was out (of marijuana), as he would be more angry and violent during those times."

Williston Police Officer Eric Shepard, who was helping those injured in the initial crash and whose cruiser was stolen at the scene, is also the officer who arrested Bourgoin after a domestic violence incident, according to the affidavit.

Shepard saw the driver thrown from his stolen cruiser after it slammed into the burning wreckage of the Toyota Tacoma. "Shepard stated he was 100 percent certain that Bourgoin was the operator of the cruiser," according to the affidavit.

Shepard said Bourgoin didn't say anything after being taken into custody but that he did try to escape while being evaluated by medics.

The Tacoma is registered to Lawrence's father, but it belonged to Bourgoin, she told police, adding that the insurance was in his name and he was making payments on the truck.

The affidavit states that the "male operator of the truck" involved in the initial fatal crash was "later identified as Steven D. Bourgoin."

Shepard also said, when interviewed by detectives, that Bourgoin has post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The affidavit provides no further information about that diagnosis or Bourgoin's mental health.

Military service records show Bourgoin served four months in the Army at Fort Benning in Georgia from August 1999 to November 1999. His discharge records are not public, according to an Army spokeswoman.

A WCAX report citing anonymous sources says that Bourgoin was released from the Army for "failure to meet procurement medical fitness standards."


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