SHAFTSBURY — A multi-agency response to gunfire Friday near Ehrich Road ended with authorities withdrawing, with plans for a criminal citation.
It began at about 5:50 p.m., after several 911 callers reported shots fired upon Ehrich Road, and two people seeking safety and shelter from the gunfire.
Several hours later, by the time law enforcement officers dismantled their perimeter at 127 Ehrich Road, the alleged shooter, Gerardo Zelayagranados, 31, of Shaftsbury, was still inside the home. Police planned to cite him on three counts of reckless endangerment, according to a statement from Troopers Ryan Criss and Sgt. Justin Walker of the Shaftsbury barracks.
In the run-up, multiple local law enforcement agencies descended upon the area for reports of two people having been shot at.
First, troopers and deputies from the Bennington County Sheriff's Department arrived in the area and quickly found the victims, who were taken into protective custody. The victims identified Zelayagranados as the shooter at 127 Ehrich Road.
Police went to that address to find Zelayagranados. Police say, when they arrived, Zelayagranados shut off the lights inside and refused to come out. By then, troopers, deputies, state game wardens and officers from the Bennington Police Department were on the scene, setting up a perimeter on the house and shutting down traffic on Ehrich Road. Meanwhile, state police detectives were out gathering more information on what happened.
The details discovered by detectives and troopers changed the nature of the case from one of intentional violence to dangerous behavior without intent, including: the alleged shooter had shot into the air and the ground, not at the victims and never made any threats toward them (this, police said, is what changed nature of the charges to something less serious); no one was injured; the alleged shooter was potentially impaired by drugs or alcohol or both, and that he was in an altered state; and that there was a third victim, who had left the scene in a car, but was stopped and questioned by Bennington Police as part of the investigation. One of the victims is a juvenile.
Given the reduced level of potential criminal charges, after several hours, police chose to withdraw from the scene without making an arrest, rather than escalating the situation, potentially with deadly force.
State police said in a statement that the investigation is ongoing, and that anyone with information should contact the Vermont State Police, Shaftsbury barracks, at 802-442-5421.
Police said more information will be forthcoming, once their investigation is done, and criminal charges are prepared.
Relatedly, the town is working on a new ordinance that would prevent the discharge of firearms in all residential zoned areas in the village.