Judge orders suspect evaluated

A judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation and competency review for a machete-wielding man who police say attacked a 73-year-old woman delivering Meals on Wheels in Shelburne.

Abukar A. Ibrahim, 32, of Maple Street in Burlington pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court to attempted first-degree murder, two counts of unlawful mischief and one count of violating the conditions of release in an earlier court case.

Pool photo by Ryan Mercer, Burlington Free Press
Abukar Ibrahim, 32, appears via video at Vermont Superior Court in Burlington on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, after his arrest Friday. Ibrahim is accused of attacking a 73-year-old woman with a machete at Harbor Place in Shelburne.

When the attack allegedly occurred, he was at Harbor Place for an approved four-day cold-weather stay, police said.

Judge David Fenster agreed to a defense request for an evaluation to see if Ibrahim is competent to stand trial and to assess his sanity. The judge noted Ibrahim could face a life sentence if convicted of attempted murder.

In court Monday, public defender Bryan Dodge did not object to the state’s request that Ibrahim be held without bail, but said the defense could contest it later. Ibrahim is jailed at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.

The machete incident happened Friday morning at Harbor Place on Shelburne Road. Shelburne rescue raced the victim, Johanne LaGrange, to the UVM Medical Center, where she needed about a dozen stitches in her right calf.

This is the weapon seized by Shelburne Police in last Friday’s attack.

Ibrahim, who was born in Somalia and is divorced, threatened to cut the throats of Shelburne officers who responded to the incident, court records show. The machete, which is about 19 inches long, was seized as evidence.

Court records maintain Ibrahim “willfully, deliberately and with premeditation, and with intent to kill,” attacked LaGrange with a machete.

In a court affidavit, Shelburne Police Officer Josh Flore wrote that the attack was captured on Harbor Place security video. It shows the woman being struck three times in the back and slashed on her leg after she delivered hot meals to the complex, Flore wrote.

LaGrange was wearing several layers of clothing and initially did not realize she had been cut, court records show. It was after blood was spotted on the floor in the office that she lifted her pant leg and there was a noticeable cut, Flore wrote.

LaGrange said she had delivered the requested hot meals to the office at Harbor Place and went back to her car to get some pre-packaged meals, but found a man beating on her car, the court affidavit said.

She said she tried to talk to him, but to no avail. When she turned her back, she said she was struck a few times on the back left shoulder and then was struck with the machete, LaGrange said in a statement to police. She said the assailant fled into a room and she went into the Harbor Place office.
A standoff with police lasted almost two and a half hours until Ibrahim eventually surrendered and was arrested by Shelburne police, according to Cpl. Jon Marcoux.

Ibrahim was arraigned by video from the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, where he was held after his arrest.

The two mischief charges stem from damage to vehicles at Harbor Place. The violation of conditions count came from a Burlington domestic assault case in December, when a judge ordered Ibrahim to refrain from having any weapons, including firearms, knives and machetes.

Harbor Place is owned by the Champlain Housing Trust and provides temporary lodging for people with no place to turn, including the homeless and those with mental health issues.

Shelburne police were called to Harbor Place Friday at 10:10 a.m. for a report that a man with a knife was smashing car windows, Marcoux said. When officers arrived, they learned that two cars had been damaged, a 2017 BMW owned by LaGrange and a 2016 sedan owned by Alexander Siegel, a case manager for the Howard Center, a Burlington-based mental health facility.

When police encountered Ibrahim, he taunted them and retreated into room 139, continuing to make agitated comments to the officers, according to police. However, he refused to answer the room phone to talk with police, Flore said.

Deputy Shelburne Police Chief Aaron Noble said a decision was made to bring in tactical assistance from Essex, Milton and Burlington police. A member of the Burlington Street Outreach Team, which had dealt with Ibrahim recently, also was summoned. Ibrahim eventually walked out about 10 minutes after the tactical officers arrived.

Officers encouraged Ibrahim to surrender by coming out a door on the east side of the Harbor Place room, but it turned out the sliding door was frozen shut, Flore wrote. He said the negotiator then had to redirect Ibrahim to walk out a door on the other side of the room, Flore said.

Ibrahim was treated for a hand cut at the Shelburne police station, Flore said, and was held over the weekend at the South Burlington jail for lack of $75,000 bail on the attempted murder charge. The other three criminal charges were added in court on Monday. By Monday evening, Ibrahim was transferred to the prison in St. Albans.

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