Burke remains opposed to trying University Mall shooting suspect as juvenile

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Chittenden County prosecutors want to try the suspect from the University Mall shooting in South Burlington as a juvenile, but there still is a chance the case could go to criminal court.

Prosecutors say they file these motions in every case where the defendant is younger than 22 years old. South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke said he’s willing to see the process play out, but stand firm that the case belongs in criminal court.

“At first it just didn’t equate to me ‘why would we treat this person, this crime, with the resources the family court has within their grasp,’” said Police Chief Shawn Burke. “But now, I better understand this is a front loaded process.”

Chief Burke says he initially wrestled with the idea of 18-year-old Tyshane Smith being considered a juvenile offender. On February 1st, the mall went into lock down for more than 3 hours after police say Smith fired a hand gun at least 5 times inside the mall. One bystander was injured by flying debris.

“The incident at the U-Mall was extremely, extremely dangerous to innocent people just going about their day,” Burke said.

Smith was brought back to Vermont last week, after he was caught in South Florida. Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George says every defendant in Vermont under age 22 is eligible for youthful offender status. They must undergo an assessment with the Department for Children and Families as well as a public hearing.

In a statement, George says:

“The state’s motion to transfer does not mean that the state will ultimately support a case being given youthful offender status. In order to ensure that the youthful offender program is fair and equitable, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office attempts to give every eligible youth a chance to be considered.”

If a judge grants it, though, Smith’s case would be transferred to family court. Any convictions could also be removed from his record when he turns 22. Chief Burke says given the evidence, he thinks it’s unlikely that will happen.

“This was a violent felony by a kid that then fled the state, who was found with cocaine on him,” Burke said. “All the things that don’t seem like they belong in family court, but let’s look at the process and see how it works.”

Smith is being held without bail at Northwest Correctional Facility.

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