BARRE — Days after pleading innocent to drug and gun charges stemming from his week-old arrest on Summer Street, a New Jersey man returned to the criminal courthouse in Barre on Friday because he is wanted in connection with a homicide in his home state.
Anthony Figueroa, 24, of Jersey City, New Jersey, was being held at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury for lack of $25,000 bail in the wake of his Monday arraignment when New Jersey prosecutors say they charged him with first-degree murder and three related weapons charges.
All of those charges stem from a July 6 shooting in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that prosecutors there say claimed the life of 19-year-old Carlos Rodriguez.
Prosecutors say Rodriguez was shot on the sidewalk of his home town shortly after 7 p.m. on July 6. He was transported to a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, where he was pronounced dead the next day.
Figueroa, who was arrested on Summer Street in Barre last Thursday, has since been charged with that murder and during Friday’s court appearance was charged as a fugitive from justice.
Prosecutors say Figueroa will remain in custody in Vermont pending his extradition to New Jersey where he will be arraigned on the four newly filed charges.
Prosecutors said Figueroa was identified as a suspect in the near-two-month-old murder, following an investigation that involved the Union County Homicide Task Force, the Elizabeth Police Department the Union County Crime Scene Unit and Union County Police Department Ballistics Unit. Vermont State Police and Jersey City Police assisted, they said.
Figueroa was served with the charges while in custody in St. Johnsbury earlier this week setting the stage for his being charged Friday as a fugitive from justice.
On Monday Figueroa pleaded not guilty to a felony count of possession of cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possessing a firearm while being a person convicted of a violent crime. A conviction on those charges would carry a maximum sentence of seven years.
Figueroa has prior convictions in Vermont for aggravated assault and heroin possession, both out of Windsor county.
MONTPELIER — A short stretch of State Street and most of the Capitol complex was on lockdown for nearly six hours Friday as authorities tried, without success, to confirm a report of a man reportedly seen carrying a gun into the building that houses the Vermont Tax Department.
The situation started shortly after 11 a.m. and wrapped up moments after 5 p.m. That’s when Montpelier police confirmed an army of federal, state and local law enforcement had cleared the last of the buildings and were in the process of reopening the portion of State Street between Bailey Avenue and Taylor Street.
It was an anticlimactic development, because the threat level steadily dropped as the afternoon wore on, and no sign of the reported weapon was detected.
By 1:45 p.m. a precautionary “lock out” at the city’s three schools was lifted and by 3 p.m. emergency dispatch authorities believed they were dealing with a “false alarm.” In an era of mass shootings, they weren’t taking any chances.
“We still have to take every report seriously,” she said.
Authorities did, swiftly isolating the road that runs by the massive building that houses the Tax Department, the neighboring State House, and the rest of the Capitol Complex.
Employees at 133 State St. were evacuated in stages and to different locations.
Part of the building was evacuated shortly after the call came in and the rest a couple of hours later. Some of those employees crossed the lawn to the State House and others used an underground tunnel to get to Pavilion Office Building.
Law enforcement personnel — some wearing body armor, others carrying assault rifles and two accompanied by police dogs — spent the day sweeping the huge granite building, which was the last one that they cleared.
Some of the building’s employees were beyond restless by then. Several left their car keys in their offices and couldn’t leave for home without them and at least one was without his insulin.
They were clearly frustrated because, while the street was still lit up by flashing blue lights of two fleets of emergency vehicles that flanked the Capitol Complex, the atmosphere was more relaxed, it didn’t appear there was any real danger and their co-workers were all headed for home.
Mary McAfee was one of them.
McAfee said she was glad she grabbed her personal belongings before leaving her office to spend an unproductive afternoon in lockdown at the Pavilion.
“I caught a lot of Pokemon,” the East Barre woman said, noting none were particularly special and all were captured on her cellphone after she was evacuated.
“It wasn’t when I was working,” she said.
While most of the focus was on 133 State St., several other buildings — including one across the street that houses the state Department of Motor Vehicles — were affected.
“I’m not getting a lot of work done,” said Michael Smith, director of operations at the DMV.
On Friday, Smith was acting commissioner in the absence of his bus, but when he got word — first by phone, then by radio and finally by email — that there was a “potential active shooter” across the street, he executed lockdown measures that required those who could get to the DMV by foot to use the rear entrance.
“I feel bad for those scheduled for road tests because they’re not getting one today,” he said, wondering how one would-be driver who was in the process of being tested would get back with the street blocked off.
That driver wasn’t the only one stranded by the search.
Tom Wermager spent 90 minutes waiting to get his enhanced driver’s license at the DMV only to find that his car was parked on the section of street that was closed.
An hour later and more than three hours before he and others like him were allowed to drive away, Wermager wasn’t complaining.
“I’ve got no problem with law enforcement doing their job,” he said.
Wermager seemed impressed by the spectacle, but sounded disappointed that it was necessary.
“Stuff like this happens in the smallest capital in the world,” he said, shaking his head.
Kaylynn Short, of West Topsham, ran into a similar problem after registering her vehicle at the DMV. She said the volume of emergency vehicles and the mysterious report of a man with a gun were daunting.
“It’s kind of scary because we’re from the country, where pretty much nothing happens,” she said, expressing hope she’d be able to leave in time to pick her first-grade son up from school and drive her husband to work.
Short didn’t. When she finally left more than three hours later she’d had to make other arrangements for her son and her husband while expressing hope that the still-unfolding saga ended well.
“I hope whoever it was is all right,” she said before driving off.
It isn’t clear there ever was anyone to worry about.
In a late-afternoon statement the state Department of Human Resources confirmed “no intruder or firearm were located.” Further details were not immediately available from police.
Most took the accompanying inconvenience during the lockdown in stride.
That included Terry and Linda Engler, whose visit to Montpelier lasted longer than expected.
The Plattsburgh, New York, couple was briefly caught up in the lockdown while touring the Vermont Historical Society Museum and when they were allowed to leave, they discovered their car was among those that was trapped.
“Hopefully, we won’t get a ticket,” Linda Engler said. “It’s been more than two hours now.”
It was another three before they left — with no ticket.
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