Apparent Suicide at Occupy Burlington Camp - Updated, 11/12 at 8:40 p.m. | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Apparent Suicide at Occupy Burlington Camp - Updated, 11/12 at 8:40 p.m. 

Published November 11, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.

Latest update to Storify: 11/12, 8:40 p.m.

Update, 11/11, 2:26 p.m.: In a briefing this morning, police identified the deceased as Joshua Pfenning, 35, a transient in the Burlington area. Police say Pfenning had consumed a "large quantity of alcohol," and that he pointed the gun at and threatened another person in the tent before the shooting. Police have contacted one witness who was in the tent at the time the shooting occurred and are looking for another, although they did not release the missing witness's name. The handgun used in the incident was apparently stolen from a home in Derby in 2009.

Responding to rumors that the victim was a military veteran, Deputy Chief Andi Higbee said that Pfenning was in the Army at one point, but was discharged after two weeks in boot camp.

Police Chief Michael Schirling says the city is now trying to balance public safety and its own investigation with the rights of Occupy Burlington protesters to assemble. The southern half of City Hall Park, where the Occupy camp is, will remain cordoned off indefinitely while the investigation continues The northern half remains open for all and Occupiers are welcome to continue demonstrations there during the hours the park is open. Police will no longer permit tents in the park, though.

According to court records, Pfenning has a criminal record dating back to 1999. He received a suspended jail sentence and probation following a drunk driving arrest in Orleans County in 2006. In September 2009, he pleaded guilty to DUI and operating with a suspended license in Chittenden County, and paid a fine. He pleaded guilty to DUI #2 and operating with a suspended license in Caledonia County in October 2010. He received a suspended jail sentence and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service, and attend  alcohol screening, counseling and treatment. He was on probation through October 23, 2012.

Court records also indicate he was born in Middlebury, and that his birthday was Nov. 6 — four days before his apparent suicide.  

Andy Bromage contributed to this report. Click here to download the full text of Police Chief Michael Schirling's statement on the investigation and the future of Occupy Burlington.

Original post: Yesterday evening, police cleared City Hall Park to investigate the shooting death of a man who allegedly shot himself at the Occupy Burlington encampment. Occupiers, Burlington police and Mayor Bob Kiss met in the park and later inside City Hall to discuss how to proceed. The situation became tense after police detained a protester and displayed tear gas guns and other larger weapons. Kiss successfully negotiated the release of the protester, and a pastor from the Unitarian Universalist church invited Occupiers to spend the night there instead.

All night long, police kept the southern half of City Hall Park cordoned off. The northern half of the park remained open, and some Occupiers remained there to keep an eye on the camp. They also held a candlelight vigil after midnight in memory of "Josh" at the northern edge of the City Hall Park fountain.

The southern half of the park, including the Occupy camp, remains cordoned off this morning. Four police cars are stationed at the corners of the scene. This morning the park was largely devoid of Occupiers, but area homeless and other local residents were there, keeping watch.

What follows is a Storify post chronicling the day's events through Tweets, photos and video from local media outlets and community members. The post will be updated as more news comes in. I'm headed off to a Burlington Police briefing at 11:30 a.m., from which I'll post updates on our Twitter account.

(If you're having trouble seeing the embedded version of the Storify post below, click here to view it on


One or more images has been removed from this article. For further information, contact
Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Tags: ,

More By This Author

About The Author

Tyler Machado

Tyler Machado

Tyler Machado was the digital media manager at Seven Days. He mostly worked behind the scenes making sure the website, email newsletters and social media feeds stayed in tip-top shape.

Comments (34)

Showing 1-10 of 34


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in News

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation