BENNINGTON — Police seized three fully-loaded illegal guns during three separate incidents in Bennington over the past two weeks.
One of the firearms, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum, had been recently stolen from a residence in Pownal. Another firearm was determined to be an untraceable “ghost gun.”
The first seizure happened when Bennington police, responding to a report of shots fired in the vicinity of Willow Park, attempted to pull over a vehicle near the parking lot at about 7:15 p.m. March 15 on East Road by the entrance to the park. Two individuals in the car were questioned but refused to allow the police to search the vehicle, then left the area when they were not arrested.
After police received a search warrant, a loaded 9mm “ghost gun” was recovered inside the vehicle, along with quantities of heroin, crack cocaine and $400 cash.
A ghost gun is a firearm that is untraceable. Ghost guns have no serial numbers because they are usually assembled from multiple parts of other guns. The two local residents, who have not been identified by authorities, are currently under investigation and have multiple charges pending.
The second incident occurred during a traffic stop March 24 on School Street near Pleasant Street. Police recovered a loaded Glock 9mm handgun and a marijuana derivative called Butane Honey Oil, a still-illegal substance in Vermont. Vermont law states that it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm while in possession of a narcotic drug. Steven Rogers of Woodford was charged with possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance. He was issued a citation to appear at the Bennington Courthouse on June 27.
The third incident happened Thursday in the parking lot of the Dollar General on Main Street. Police investigating another matter spotted a vehicle associated with Ryan Ottaviano, 32, known to police as part of the local narcotics trade. Ottaviano was parked outside the entrance with another car nearby. Ottaviano had two warrants for his arrest, one from December 2021 related to an assault and robbery, and one from March 14 on three counts related to the sale of heroin and fentanyl.
Police then observed another man, Gavin Wilcox, 31, with a backpack exit a vehicle and enter the vehicle driven by Ottaviano. Police arrested Ottaviano on the warrants, and a check on Wilcox revealed a warrant for a corrections violation.
As Wilcox was questioned, police noticed a small plastic bag fall from his hand and land on the car’s floor. The substance in the bag was later determined to be heroin.
Police found drug paraphernalia, cash, and a loaded Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum revolver in the backpack carried by Wilcox. It was later determined that the .357 magnum handgun was stolen from a residence in Pownal. That theft is still under investigation by the Vermont State Police. A check of the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database revealed the gun robbery. A BB gun was also found in Ottaviano’s waistband.
Ottaviano and Wilcox were arraigned in front of Bennington Superior Court Judge Cortland Corsones Friday. The Dollar General parking lot incident is still under investigation and further charges are pending. At the arraignment, prosecutors revealed that possible federal firearms charges were pending against Wilcox. Both men are out on bail.
The Banner recently reported about five incidents in and around Bennington of random shots being fired. Police at the time said most of the shootings had a nexus point, possibly targeted shootings related to the issue of guns and drugs in Bennington County. The investigation into those shootings is ongoing.
Police Chief Paul Doucette did not comment on that investigation. But in a statement to the Banner on Friday, he said, “We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement to get illegal guns off of the streets and end this scourge of narcotics, drugs, and illegal guns in our community.”