Suspect faces attempted murder charge
The Bennington County State's Attorney's Office issued the two charges against Matthew Novick, 40, of 535 Red Mountain Road, following the incident that occurred in the early morning hours Monday at Novick's home. A warrant has been issued for Novick's arrest, and he is expected to be arrested and face extradition to Vermont upon discharge from the hospital, according to a Vermont State Police press release issued Tuesday afternoon.
Judge William D. Cohen found probable cause for both charges in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division on Monday.
State's Attorney Erica Marthage says the status of Novick's mental health has not been established, and said she is not sure when he will be evaluated.
If found guilty of the charges, Novick faces a life sentence with a minimum term of 35 years for attempted murder, and a sentence of up to 15 years or a $10,000 fine, or both, for the aggravated assault charge.
At approximately 3:49 a.m. Monday, a relative of Novick's who lives near him called 911 to report that Novick was having a "psychotic breakdown" after a physical fight with his male roommate, states the affidavit written by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Samuel Truex.
The roommate drove to Novick's relative's home to report the incident, police say. The relative told police that Novick "is an avid gun collector and has numerous firearms he has access to."
Marthage said she is
uncertain whether Novick owned the guns legally or how many weapons Novick owns.
Vermont State Troopers Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski were the first responders to Novick's home and have been identified as the two troopers who fired back at Novick. They are both on paid administrative leave following the incident, as VSP policy dictates.
Sommers and Witkowski were both hired in July 2016. Sommers was originally assigned to the Rutland barracks and was transferred to Shaftsbury in October 2017, while Witkowski has worked only at the Shaftsbury barracks.
Sommers and Witkowski arrived at Novick's home around 5 a.m. Monday to find Novick standing in the doorway of the house, holding a rifle, the affidavit states. Novick turned and went back into the residence, and the troopers called for backup.
At the time of the incident, no troopers from the Shaftsbury barracks were on duty, "which lengthens the response time to incidents," State Police said Tuesday. Sommers and Witkowski were on call and responded to the scene from their homes.
State Police Sgt. Todd Wilkins, who lives across the road from Novick, arrived at the scene at approximately 5:13 a.m. Approximately ten minutes later, Sgt. Seth Loomis arrived. Loomis reported hearing four gun shots "close to him" as he got out of his cruiser, but he was unsure where the shots originated from.
Troopers set up a perimeter around Novick's home and the surrounding area, and officers watched the house as neighboring residents were evacuated "for safety reasons," states the affidavit.
Approximately ten minutes after Loomis arrived, he said he heard "show me your hands" multiple times, and he began to walk toward the scene when he heard five or six "quick gun shots." Loomis says he was unsure who had fired the shots.
Novick fired initially on Witkowski and Sommers, who took cover behind a cruiser and returned fire toward Novick, police said. The affidavit states Wilkins and Officer Jason Thomas from the Manchester Police Department also took cover behind two nearby vehicles parked in Wilkins' driveway.
It was later discovered that the cruiser Sommers and Witkowski took cover behind had "multiple bullet holes," including through the windshield, police say. These holes are consistent with Novick's shooting at the front of the cruiser, which was also in the direction of where Wilkins, Witkowski, Sommers, and Thomas had taken cover, states the affidavit. Marthage confirmed this cruiser belongs to Witkowski.
The troopers and the officer were directly in the line of fire from Novick, according to the affidavit.
The number of rounds fired by troopers is under investigation.
Loomis saw Novick lying on the ground next to the mailbox and ordered five officers to provide medical aid, states the affidavit. Novick was transported to the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, and was subsequently airlifted to Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y. where he was taken into surgery. Police say as of Tuesday, Novick was in intensive care "in critical but stable condition" and under guard.
While the officers dealt with Novick, Loomis and other officers inspected Novick's home. Loomis reported seeing "swords and rifles" inside the living room, as well as "broken pictures and blood everywhere" inside the home. In the bedroom, what appeared to be an AR-15 rifle with a scope was lying on the bed. He noted that the bedroom's window looked directly down onto Red Mountain Road, where one of the cruisers was parked directly in front of the home.
Loomis also reported it seemed Novick had been shooting at boxes inside his home and described the scent of gunpowder inside. No one else was inside the home at the time of the shooting, police said.
When Detective Sgt. Henry Alberico of the Bureau of Criminal Investigations Major Crime Unit spoke with Novick's roommate Monday around 8:39 a.m., the roommate reported that Novick and he got into an argument over a valuable coin, and the argument led to a "wrestling match" and Novick locking the roommate out of the house. The roommate told Alberico that he broke into the house and grabbed his car keys to drive to Novick's nearby relative.
The roommate also told Alberico that he attempted to call 911, but Novick "ripped the phone cord out of the phone or the wall." He described Novick as "super hyper and argumentative" and noted that Novick often takes an entire two-week prescription for Ritalin in a three-day period, the affidavit states.
In November 2018, Vermont State Police responded to Novick's home for the report of a domestic incident where Novick talked about "suicide by cop," according to the affidavit. During this incident, Novick told his roommate that he was "too chicken to kill himself, however, if he killed [the roommate] first, then he would be able to kill himself," documents state.
Marthage says she does not know of any complaints to the police about Novick other than the November incident.
The roommate told Alberico that during the Jan. 6 argument, he and Novick spoke with a mutual friend. This mutual friend told Alberico that when he spoke to Novick the night of the incident, Novick's speech was "slurred and unintelligible" and he kept repeating himself, states the affidavit. The friend was aware that Novick had previously talked about wanting to be killed by police, and told Alberico that he was worried for Novick's roommate's safety.
Christie Wisniewski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.
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