BRATTLEBORO—A workplace dispute turned deadly at the Brattleboro Food Co-op on Tuesday morning.
Store manager Michael Martin, 59, of Dummerston, was shot and killed inside the Co-op shortly after 8 a.m.
Martin had worked at the Co-op for about five years.
Richard E. Gagnon, 59, of Marlboro, was taken into custody by Brattleboro Police.
Gagnon had been the manager of the store’s beer and wine department since 1992, according to a blog that he wrote for the Co-op in 2006 and 2007.
He was held without bail on Tuesday at the Brattleboro Police Department and was scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday.
According to Brattleboro Police Chief Eugene Wrinn, personnel from the Brattleboro police and fire departments and Rescue Inc. responded to the Co-op at 8:16 a.m. for a report of an unresponsive male.
Inside the store, they found Martin, who was dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Gagnon was taken into custody a short time later.
Unconfirmed reports from store employees said Gagnon walked into the store shortly after it had opened for the day, shot Martin in the head, and then waited outside for police to arrest him.
“Currently, the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Vermont State Crime Lab, and representatives from the Windham County State’s Attorney office are providing resources toward that investigation,” Wrinn said Tuesday morning.
Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver would not give details on Tuesday about the shooting or what may have motivated it.
The Co-op and the adjacent parking lot was closed immediately after police responded to the shooting. Brattleboro Police and Vermont State Police conducted their investigation as grief counselors met with workers at the Co-op, and off-site, throughout the day.
Construction work on the new Co-op building continued during Tuesday’s investigation.
Co-op General Manager Alex Gyori declined to comment about the incident. He was meeting with co-workers all morning outside the store.
The store was also closed on Wednesday and is expected to reopen on Thursday.
According to the Co-op’s Facebook page, a community vigil is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. on the Whetstone Pathway.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Brattleboro Town Manager Barbara Sondag said, “I don’t believe any of us will ever fully understand what happened and why. What we do know is that our community has experienced a great loss.
“The life of one has been cut short, and that of another is forever changed — as are the lives of both families,” Sondag said. “ And we as a community are also changed. How we respond will define us. Let us come together and grieve these losses. Let us find hope and peace, and let us take care of each other and those most closely impacted.”
Gov. Peter Shumlin, a frequent visitor to the Co-op during his years living in Windham County, also commented on Tuesday’s shooting.
“If there is any place in Vermont that represents the best qualities of our state — a place where the community comes together to buy local, laugh, make friends, and celebrate what we cherish about our lives — it is the Brattleboro Food Co-op,” he said.
“My heart goes out to the family of the victim, the Co-op employees, and the Brattleboro community as they deal with today’s violence and loss,” Shumlin said.
This was the third homicide in Vermont in the past three weeks, and the second homicide in Windham County in nearly two weeks.
On July 29, Melissa Barratt, 31, of Bellows Falls was slain in Dummerston. Frank Carabello, 29, of Holyoke, Mass., has been charged with the crime.
News of Tuesday’s shooting stunned townspeople, who searched for answers to an unfathomable crime. Stunned residents spread updates through social media like Facebook, Twitter, and iBrattleboro.
A number of people described Gagnon as stable and easygoing, including one former restauranteur who declined to be identified.
“Anyone who knows him would be surprised,” said the former restaurant owner, explaining that she worked closely with the suspect on wine tastings.
“I am shocked and saddened to hear of the murder at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, by a man I considered a friend,” beer writer Tom Bedell of Dummerston wrote on Facebook and Twitter.
Amid dozens of tweets from shoppers, members, vendors, and other businesses, especially other cooperatives, one, from Tony Campos, of Barre, stood out.
Campos wrote that he and his wife, Cindy, had “just heard the sad news that my best man in our wedding, Mike Martin’s life was tragically taken,” he wrote.
The news came on the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.