Judge orders suspect evaluated

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.

A machete-wielding man who police say attacked woman delivering Meals on Wheels in Shelburne pleaded not guilty on Monday to a charge of attempted first-degree murder.

Abukar A. Ibrahim, 32, of Maple Street in Burlington, was ordered held without bail by Vermont Superior Court Judge David Fenster. Ibrahim also denied two counts of unlawful mischief and one count of violating the conditions of release in an earlier court case.

The machete incident happened Friday morning at Harbor Place on Shelburne Road. It left 73-year-old victim Johanne LaGrange needing about a dozen stiches in her right calf, court records show. Shelburne Rescue rushed her to UVM Medical Center.

Court records detailing the charge against Ibrahim maintain that he “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.

A standoff with police followed the incident, lasting almost two and a half hours until Ibrahim eventually surrendered and was arrested by Shelburne police, according to Cpl. Jon Marcoux.

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 would be free to contest it later.

Ibrahim was born in Somalia and is divorced, court records show.

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

Judge Fenster agreed to a defense request for a competency evaluation and said sanity also would be checked. The judge said Ibrahim could face a life sentence if convicted of attempted murder.

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 homeless individuals and those with mental 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, including a 2017 BMW owned by LaGrange, and a 2016 sedan owned by an employee of 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 before, also was summoned. Ibrahim eventually walked out about 10 minutes after the tactical officers arrived.

Ibrahim was held initially at the South Burlington jail for lack of $75,000 bail only on the attempted murder charge. The other charges were added on Monday. By late Monday, Ibrahim was being transferred to the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans, officials said.

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