A Rutland man was shot to death Tuesday morning after opening fire on the city police station and leading Rutland City and Rutland Town officers on a chase through downtown Rutland through the shopping plaza.
The incident is directly related to discovery of a body in Salisbury Tuesday afternoon, according to Maj. Dan Trudeau of the Vermont State Police.
Trudeau said the drive-by shooting occurred in front of the Rutland City Police Department at about 5:30 a.m. The suspect fired two shots through the glass front door using an assault-style rifle before fleeing, Trudeau said.
Surveillance cameras enabled the police to locate the vehicle and its driver, Christopher G. Louras, 33, in the downtown plaza parking lot near Walmart, Trudeau said.
Louras is the eldest son of former Rutland mayor Christopher C. Louras, who served from 2007 to 2017, and previously, as a city alderman, served as president of the Board of Aldermen.
During an interview at the scene, Michael Maniery, who lives with the younger Louras’ cousin Nicholas Louras, said the car Christopher Louras was driving belonged to Nicholas Louras’ girlfriend.
Police pursued Christopher Louras through the Amtrak parking lot, where Louras attempted to cross the railroad tracks with the vehicle, but the car was lodged in the middle of the railroad tracks.
Trudeau said, “There was a considerable amount of gunfire” exchanged between Louras and four officers at the scene, three of whom were from Rutland City and one from Rutland Town.
Rutland native Nate Stevens, 30, said he was crossing through Depot Park on his way to Carris Reels when he heard the gunfire.
“There were two shots, then two shots again, then they really started going off,” Stevens said. “Probably a good 30 shots.”
Other officers were there, Trudeau said, but only four discharged their weapons and he could not confirm who fired first nor how many shots were fired.
After Christopher Louras was taken down, he was transported to Rutland Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Trudeau said the four officers, three of whom discharged hand guns and one a rifle, were all put on administrative leave.
Maniery said Nicholas Louras left the house they shared at about 11 p.m. Monday night driving the white Ford Focus belonging to his girlfriend, and said Nicholas Louras was going to his cousin’s house.
“His cousin called, and he was going to go to his cousin’s house, is what we were told,” Maniery said at the scene. “It happens frequently, so it wasn’t anything out of the norm.”
Maniery said Nicholas Louras’ cellphone became inactive around 3:30 a.m., and Nicholas Louras was still absent when his girlfriend woke up Tuesday morning.
Photographs of the white sedan lodged in the railroad tracks were sent to him by friends, Maniery said.
Police said there was a body found off Route 53 in Salisbury just before 1 p.m. Tuesday, and Trudeau said the dead man isn’t from Salisbury.
“We suspect we know who it is,” Trudeau said. “It is an apparent homicide to us, right out of the gate.”
Trudeau said Tuesday it’s too early to tell whether Christopher Louras is a suspect in the homicide, but the public has no reason to be concerned.
“We do feel they’re connected,” Trudeau said of the two incidents.
Maniery tried again to reach Nicholas Louras later Tuesday morning, but his phone was inactive.
In a Facebook post, Mayor David Allaire expressed sympathy for all involved.
“This has been a very difficult day for several families, the Police Department and the Rutland community as a whole,” Allaire wrote. “I want to commend both the City and Town police officers for their brave efforts in protecting everyone’s safety. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this tragic event, including the families and the police officers.”
Chief Brian Kilcullen said there were no officers harmed during exchanged gunfire Tuesday morning, and that he has spoken with former Mayor Louras, who could not be reached for comment.
The city will have a say in what happens to several properties in the Stonegate development.
The city already owns a number of undeveloped lots in Stonegate, claimed through tax sale, which Zoning Administrator Tara Kelly said gives the city votes on the development’s homeowners association. Kelly went to the Board of Aldermen on Monday asking for direction on an upcoming vote regarding the removal of several properties from the development.
Rutland attorney Brandon Sample said he plans to buy 13 lots in the area — 11 were the site of the former Griswold Masonry Co. and two are part of Stonegate despite not being connected to the subdivision — and use them for a remodeling business he owns before redeveloping it.
“I want to use the space initially to keep my equipment — no retail or anything,” Sample said Tuesday. “The long-term plan is to build housing.”
None of the lots are among those claimed by the city.
The Board of Aldermen voted Monday to authorize Kelly to vote in favor of removing the properties from the homeowners association. Kelly said the properties had been vacant for some time, and Sample’s proposal seemed to be the best chance to see something productive done with them.
Kelly told the board she wasn’t sure what sort of vote to recommend on a second request by Sample for the HOA to forgive all outstanding fees and liens on the property. None of the board members had much of an opinion either, and Alderman Thomas Depoy suggested the board instruct Kelly to remain neutral.
“I don’t want her to stay neutral,” replied Alderman William Gillam, noting that the city owned four properties, giving it four votes. “I want her to be able to negotiate if we have to.”
The board approved a motion by Alderwoman Rebecca Mattis authorizing Kelly to vote as she saw fit for the benefit of the city. The HOA meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Hickory Street community meeting room.
Sample said he also bought a multi-family unit at the corner of River and Forest streets that he plans to convert into an office for his law practice. Sample represents defendants in the federal court system around the country.
“I’m a transplant,” he said. “I kind of fell in love with Vermont. I like the slow pace. People talk down about Rutland and how bad it is. I see opportunity. People who come from out of town and out of state, they see opportunity. ... This could be the next Colchester in terms of development if it had the right kind of planning and resource commitment.”
The city isn’t letting a lawsuit hold up improvements to the sewer plant.
The Board of Aldermen voted Monday to authorize short-term borrowing to begin work on upgrades to the digestors at the city’s wastewater treatment facility. Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said he hopes bond funds will become available soon enough that the borrowing proves unnecessary.
“We’re not going to see invoices until the middle of next year,” Wennberg said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s an enormous risk we’ll be actually borrowing money.”
Voters at town meeting approved $7.4 million in bonds for sewer projects, including $3.5 million for the digesters. However, the city has been unable to access those funds due to a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the March vote due to the tardiness of the city report. A Rutland County civil court judge threw out the lawsuit in June, but an appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court is pending. The bond funds remain unavailable.
Last month, the city voted to begin work on a $1.5 million sewer line replacement covered by the bond, paying for it from the water fund and reimbursing that with the bond money once the lawsuit was resolved.
Wennberg said that two of the city’s five digestors, which process the solids from sewage, are offline and the project will bring them online. He said the three that are online cover the city’s daily needs, but leave the city without back-up capacity should any of them fail. Wennberg also said there was a risk — though he said it was remote — that the city could lose a $1.5 million state grant for the project if it were delayed.
“It sounds like we’re just weighing risk,” Alderwoman Rebecca Mattis said Monday. “To me the risk is greater — look at the change of the price of steel. That’s the greater risk. That’s where I’m at.”
The board unanimously approved the proposal.
“... He’s been there for every important event in my life. He’s been the most important event in my life.”
Maryland resident Alyse Sanchez, whose husband, Elmer Sanchez, was arrested and shackled to await deportation after having just received his green card conferring permanent U.S. residency, says she believes the couple were tricked into showing up at the immigration office. — B4
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