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Man Killed In Burlington Drug Raid Was Armed, Police Say

Taylor Dobbs
Vermont State Police and federal agents shot and killed 56-year-old Kenneth Stephens on Tuesday night after breaking down the door of his apartment, authorities say. Wednesday, Burlington Police officers kept watch outside the building.

Vermont State Police identified the man killed in a Tuesday evening drug raid in Burlington as 56-year-old Kenneth Stephens, who police say was pointing a rifle at them when they entered the apartment.

Documents unsealed in federal court show DEA agents were conducting the raid on Elmwood Avenue in hopes of finding evidence to build their case against a man named Kenneth Stephens. The DEA has been investigating Stephens since at least November.

A statement released Wednesday afternoon by Vermont State Police Major Glenn Hall, made it clear that police went into the raid prepared for violence. According to that statement, a DEA agent used a battering ram to open the door to the apartment, then – when Stephens allegedly confronted them with a rifle – a Vermont state trooper and a DEA agent shot him.

“Detectives believe a total of 13 rounds were discharged between the two officers, both of whom fired patrol rifles,” the statement said.

The Burlington Free Pressreported Wednesday that at least one bullet went through a wall into an adjacent apartment, according to a neighbor, “and barely missed his roommate, who was sitting on a couch downstairs.”

Another neighbor, who refused to give his name, told VPR Wednesday that he heard what sounded like four gunshots and then retreated to the floor of his bedroom for safety.

Vermont State Police are investigating the shooting. The release said the trooper who fired at Stephens has been put on administrative leave, per department policy. The release also said state police do not release the names of troopers involved in a shooting incident until at least 24 hour after it takes place.

"Detectives believe a total of 13 rounds were discharged between the two officers, both of whom fired patrol rifles." - Maj. Glenn Hall, Vermont State Police

Hall’s release didn’t name the DEA agent who fired at Stephens.

The release said Burlington Police, Essex Police and the agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took part in the raid in addition to DEA agents and the state police.

According to an affidavit by DEA Task Force Officer Robert Estes, a confidential informant paid by the DEA and wearing recording equipment went to the apartment and bought heroin and crack cocaine from Stephens. There were three such undercover deals at the property between Nov. 9 and Dec. 22, when the shooting took place, the document says.

The affidavit said the confidential informant saw a muzzleloader in the apartment and told DEA agents that Stephens claimed the gun was loaded.

In an effort to preserve evidence of drug activity, and because he was apparently concerned about the presence of a gun in the apartment, Estes’ affidavit requested that police conducting the search be permitted to enter without knocking and announcing their presence.

A judge granted that request, which is why police were able to use a battering ram to enter. Hall’s statement says authorities did yell “police” just after breaking the door open with the battering ram.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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