At a Thursday meeting of Project VISION, Rutland Mayor David Allaire talked about his personal connection to the two deaths reported in Rutland County this week: Allaire’s wife is the sister of Nicholas Louras’ mother.
On Tuesday, Christopher G. Louras, 33, of Rutland, was killed during a shootout with members of the Rutland City and Rutland Town police departments. He is the son of Allaire’s predecessor as mayor, Christopher C. Louras.
Police said they believe the incident is “tied” to a body found in Salisbury, which is about 23 miles from Rutland City. The body was identified Thursday as Nicholas Louras, 34, of Rutland.
Nicholas Louras and Christopher G. Louras are cousins.
An autopsy found that Nicholas Louras died of gunshot wounds. Police said Christopher G. Louras used a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle but they have not suggested Christopher G. Louras was responsible for Nicholas Louras’ death or released any information about any kind of motive for Christopher G. Louras’ actions.
Project VISION is a community-based organization, which includes participation from the Rutland City Police Department and city government, created seven years ago to respond to the effects of the opioid crisis and other criminal activity in Rutland.
Allaire called this a “very tough week for the city of Rutland,” thanking local police officers for their “brave work.”
“There is no doubt that their actions saved many, many lives. I say that not only as your mayor but I know that’s also how the family feels, the Louras family. I know that because Nick Louras is my nephew,” he said.
Allaire said the incidents showed that drug addiction, mental health issues and “whatever else precipitated these horrible events” can happen in any family.
Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said he had heard from former mayor Christopher Louras on Tuesday.
“It’s a tragedy for the Louras family obviously. This is a position no one wanted to be in but unfortunately we had the (situation) we had. I must say, really, no one blames the officers for what happened that day. … When this happened, not long after it happened, Mayor Louras texted me and asked how the officers were,” he said.
Kilcullen said it was “comforting to the officers involved” for Louras to check on them despite the tragedy his family was experiencing.
Kilcullen said he couldn’t discuss specifics of the investigation, but said he appreciated the support from the community. Police believe Christopher G. Louras fired two shots into the police station on Tuesday morning prior to the shootout.
Joe Kraus, chairman of Project VISION, said he has already heard questions about how the organization should respond.
“I think it’s important to understand that Project VISION is not monolithic. It’s a thousand different things. It’s continuously evolving and it is totally controlled by the people in this room and the people in this community. So at this point, I’m unable to say where the future will take us but I do know that the greatest test of character is not what you do when times are good, it’s what you do when times are hard. We’ve risen to the occasion before and we will rise to the occasion again,” he said.
Dick Malley, co-chairman of the Rutland County Habitat for Humanity chapter, suggested that Project VISION’s three sub-committees discuss their response to the incidents when they met on Thursday.
Teresa Miele, chairwoman of the Building Great Neighborhoods sub-committee, said the group had talked about the next steps for Project VISION. She said her sub-committee found itself a “little bit stalled” in keeping its focus on a specific area.
“It may be that everything’s going well in the Northwest neighborhood. Is it time for us to focus in another area? But not just looking at it from our community committee but looking at it as a bigger conversation with Project VISION overall to make sure we’re not missing any opportunities,” she said.
Miele said she believed for some time that the organization needed to do more to engage community members because the monthly meetings tend to attract most heavily those involved with existing agencies like the hospital or other community service agencies.
Allaire said he had asked himself the question of whether the efforts made by Project VISION participants had been in vain.
“My answer to that is an emphatic ‘no.’ We have made tremendous strides in treatment, prevention, enforcement (and) breaking down silos that were holding us back for far too long. Project VISION is a model for the state of Vermont, and it should continue to be just that,” he said.