by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — Markus Austin, 33, deceased, of 191 Barre Street, was known to some in the community by his role as father of a child who attends a local school.
The Bridge on Jan. 22 heard that Montpelier’s first homicide in since 2011 happened at around 4:30 a.m. at an apartment building on Barre Street. Initial information from law enforcement said only that there had been a shooting and that a man was found dead in the building’s parking lot near a car. Police reported a “male suspect fled the scene.” Police released the victim’s name as above shortly before noon the same day, but as of around 1 p.m. the suspect had not been apprehended. Police said they gathered a lot of information concerning the situation, but the investigation is just getting underway so further information will be withheld for the time being.
Barre Street seemed quiet and still compared to a usual early Sunday afternoon, with some residents hanging out on their porches looking over at the police cars parked near 191 Barre St. Police set up a perimeter with police tape that went completely around the parking lot behind the building that overlooks Hunger Mountain Coop. But as afternoon darkened into night, television vans and even more police presence created a heightened mood.
State’s Attorney Scott Williams told The Bridge the State Police Criminal Investigation team was gathering evidence and fully photographing the scene.
And just down the street, three women were hanging out in front of the building having a conversation. The Bridge stopped to ask if they knew anything about the situation. One resident said she had been told by police and by Downstreet Housing Authority not to talk to the press, but the other two — though they declined to give their names — spoke with heavy hearts about Austin without divulging any details about the actual incident.
“It is upsetting and shocking. He was a really nice guy with a family,” a woman said, saying she was his neighbor and saw him frequently. “You think this is supposed to be a safe place to live and it is turning out not to be so safe.”
A staffer at the co-op said Austin was known to shop there and also known for having a “beautiful” child who attended a local school.
And another person spoke well of Austin. Luis Martinez, manager of Montpelier’s Subway restaurant on State Street, said he has known Austin for about four years and really liked him. “He was always respectful, soft-spoken always nice — and he was always with his child — unless he was on his way to work.”
Across from the co-op, at the back of 191 Barre St. The Vermont State Crime Scene Command Post was highly visible. About five or six investigators wearing white bag-like material over their feet were gathered at the post. A group of three Montpelier Police Department officers stood guard by the entrance to the gate. Corporal David Kachajian said he was among the first responders, but that he could not comment on what looked to be an active investigation. He said there were three officers on duty at the time.
Directly behind the building, a man a man wearing a black shirt that said, “Crime Scene Search Team” circled around a black car taking photographs. Something covered in a white sheet of material appeared to be just under and to the side of the car.
The Bridge touched base with Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos at the Police Department around 4:30 p.m. Facos said there was no new information to make public, yet, but that he will keep people informed as soon as anything new happens — hopefully later tonight, but it is not known.
The Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit is leading this investigation and is working closely with the Montpelier Police Department and Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office. Detectives with the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Crime Scene Search Team have responded to investigate.
This investigation is in its early stages and is ongoing. Once the crime scene is processed, the deceased will be transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy to confirm identity and determine cause and manner of death.
Detectives are interested in speaking with anyone who witnessed this shooting or who may have information regarding people involved in this crime. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Vermont State Police at 802-229-9191 or the Montpelier Police Department at 802-223-3445. No further details are available at this time, additional information will be released when available.