Crime and Justice

Suspect pleads not guilty to murder charge in Burlington shooting, probe into South Burlington killing continues

Vermont State Police investigators examine the scene of a fatal shooting at the Swiss Host Motel in South Burlington on Monday, Oct. 3. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated Monday, Oct. 3, at 6:14 p.m.

A South Burlington man is facing a charge of second-degree murder for allegedly shooting another man Sunday night in a Burlington apartment. He is also under investigation for a fatal shooting that took place three hours later in South Burlington.

The suspect, Denroy Dasent, 52, was taken into custody shortly before midnight following a confrontation with police on Burlington’s waterfront, according to police and charging documents.

During that confrontation, police said, one officer fired a stun gun at Dasent “to no effect,” and another officer fired beanbags at the suspect before he eventually complied with orders and was placed in handcuffs. The arrest followed a brief, high-speed car chase through downtown streets, police said.

Dasent pleaded not guilty late Monday morning to the murder charge in the shooting death of Sheiknoor Osman, who was killed around 8:15 p.m. Sunday in a Pine Street apartment in Burlington, according to court documents made public Monday afternoon.

Dasent is also under investigation in connection with the fatal shooting of Brian K. Billings, 37, three hours later on Williston Road in South Burlington, according to police and court filings. 

Crime tape remains at the scene of Sunday night's homicide at 185 Pine St. on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. Photo by Patrick Crowley

Joshua O’Hara, a public defender representing Dasent at the arraignment in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington, did not contest the prosecution’s request that Dasent be held without bail. O’Hara declined comment following the hearing.

Dasent took part in the hearing on video from the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.

At a press conference Monday afternoon at the Burlington Police Department’s headquarters, Acting Chief Jon Murad outlined a timeline of events connecting the two homicides and the ultimate arrest of the suspect.

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad speaks during a press conference to discuss two recent homicides in Burlington and South Burlington on Monday, Oct. 3. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Murad said initial calls about the Pine Street shooting came in around 8:15 p.m. on Sunday. When police and members of the Burlington Fire Department arrived on scene, the victim, Osman, was declared dead. 

While Burlington police detectives and members of the Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force investigated the Pine Street shooting, South Burlington police were sent to the Swiss Host Motel just after 11 p.m., according to Murad. The victim, Billings, who lived at the motel, was also declared dead at the scene.

During the press conference, Murad said a witness to the South Burlington shooting identified Dasent as the suspect. Dasent was believed to be driving a gold SUV at the time. 

At around 11:30 p.m., police at the scene of the Pine Street shooting spotted Dasent in the gold SUV driving by slowly, Murad said. Police searched the area and spotted the suspect on Winooski Avenue, prompting an officer to follow the vehicle at a distance. Upon discovering he was being tailed, Dasent exited the vehicle on College Street. An officer aimed his firearm at Dasent and told him to get on the ground, according to Murad, but the suspect did not comply and instead told police, “You’ll have to shoot me.”

Dasent then reentered his vehicle and drove for about a minute with police in pursuit, Murad said. At Perkins Pier on the Burlington waterfront, Dasent again exited his vehicle, which then crashed into a barrier at a low speed. Dasent ran toward the Spot on the Dock restaurant. Murad said additional units joined the search and Dasent was eventually sighted just before midnight. 

Police then used the stun gun and beanbag rounds in an attempt to subdue Dasent. After hitting him twice with beanbags, Dasent lay on the ground and was arrested, according to police. 

Vermont State Police investigators examine the scene of a fatal shooting at the Swiss Host Motel in South Burlington on Monday, October 3, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Murad said the department was treating the arrest as a use-of-force incident against a person of color.

Though Dasent was arraigned for the Pine Street shooting, South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke said his department’s investigation was ongoing. He said he expected charges to be filed but that he did not feel rushed given that Dasent was being held without bail. Burke said Sunday’s shooting is the first homicide in South Burlington since 2018.

Mayor Miro Weinberger also spoke at Monday’s press conference and acknowledged that the past two years and, in particular 2022, had seen a noticeable spike in gun violence in the city. Murad said the Pine Street shooting was the 25th gunfire incident in Burlington this year and the fourth homicide.

“I know that these events have shaken our community. We are not used to this level of violence in Vermont, and we should never get used to it,” Weinberger said. “There are broad societal forces driving violent crime nationwide and our city is not immune to those and we cannot promise that these homicides are the last violent crimes that will happen here.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wipes his brow during a press conference held to discuss two recent homicides in Burlington and South Burlington on Monday, Oct. 3. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Murad said authorities had not yet identified a motive for the homicides, but he did note connections in this incident to other Burlington gun incidents. The Pine Street victim, Osman, was also the victim of a shooting at City Hall Park on May 23.

Murad noted that the victim also had a recent prior arrest in Burlington.

"Mr. Osman was arrested for aggravated assault in December of last year for threatening another man with a machete,” Murad said, adding, “The status of that case is uncertain."

The suspect, Dasent, is believed to be connected to a gunfire incident at City Hall Park last week, Murad said. A search warrant was executed at Dasent’s home in South Burlington but Dasent was not questioned. The other party involved in that incident has not been identified, and Murad said police don’t know if the person was struck by the gunfire.

An 11-page affidavit filed in support of the murder charge written by Burlington Police Detective Cpl. Nicole Moyer lays out more details, but does not provide a motive for either shooting.

The affidavit contains statements from several witnesses who were at the Pine Street apartment at the time of the shooting, including Wesley Alexander, 61, who lived there.

Alexander told police he was in the apartment sleeping when he heard a commotion, and he went out to the living room where he saw a man he had seen a few other times over the last week who pushed him, according to the affidavit. Alexander also said that he then saw a "gun come up" and he fled back to his room and hid in his closet under clothes, Moyer wrote.

Alexander said he had heard a woman who was in a room with Osman say something to the effect of "what do you want," or "what do you need," the charging document stated. Then, Alexander said, he heard five to six gunshots, according to the filing.

Tricia Guyette told police that the shooter forced his way into the apartment as she tried to shut the door on him, the affidavit stated. She added that he pulled out a gun and shot Osman several times and didn't say anything during the incident, Moyer wrote.

The affidavit does not provide many details of the South Burlington shooting, though it does state that one witness in that case reported that the shooter was named "Delroy," and that he and his wife had owned a restaurant in the University Mall food court.

The Vermont State Police and the South Burlington Police Department at the scene of a fatal shooting at the Swiss Host Motel. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

"It should be noted that Dasent and his wife do own ‘Island Passion' in the food court," the affidavit stated. 

At the Swiss Host motel on Monday, Scott Carr, 56, said he was in bed watching a Star Wars movie around 11 p.m. Sunday just before the shooting took place.

"I had just gotten up to go to the bathroom and as I got back into bed I heard boom, boom, boom," he said. “Then I heard a woman scream, ‘Holy shit,’ and 'someone got shot.’”

According to the affidavit filed in the murder case, Dasent has a criminal record in California, Vermont and New York, including convictions for obstructing police, felony sale of a drug, aggravated assault and battery and violating the conditions of his release.

Also, according to court records, he was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor domestic assault charge on Sept. 12 in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington. He was released on conditions, including that he not abuse or harass the person he was charged with assaulting.

The next court date in the case was set for Oct. 17.

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