Crime and Justice

Brattleboro man claims he killed an attacker in self-defense; police probing origin of gun

The Vermont State Police major crime unit works Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, to investigate the shooting death the night before of an unidentified man at Brattleboro’s Great River Terrace. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

Authorities appear to be investigating whether last week’s fatal Brattleboro shooting was made in self-defense, according to a complaint federal prosecutors filed in court late Tuesday afternoon.

Nicholas Baker, 34, told police that he shot an attacker in his apartment with a pistol that had fallen out of the other man’s pants pocket, according to the filing.

During a subsequent search of Baker’s apartment, though, police found a box with a sticker for the same model pistol and serial number as the one seized by police after the shooting, prosecutors wrote.

The documents filed Tuesday did not elaborate on what that could mean, though prosecutors charged Baker with illegally possessing that firearm as a convicted felon.

Baker is also facing a charge of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, Matthew Ekstrom, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, wrote in the four-page criminal complaint. 

The document provides new details into what allegedly took place leading up to the fatal shooting at Great River Terrace, a Putney Road apartment complex for people who lack permanent housing. 

The Brattleboro Police Department, which has been leading the homicide investigation, said in a press release late Monday afternoon that investigators had identified both the alleged shooter and the victim but were not releasing either name.

The complaint against Baker, which was made public late Tuesday afternoon, identifies him as the alleged shooter but identifies the person killed only as “Victim #1.”

According to the filing, Brattleboro police responded to a 911 call about a shooting at the apartment complex at about 9 p.m. Friday.

Police arriving at the scene saw a man on the lawn of the apartment complex unresponsive and bleeding, Ekstrom wrote in the filing, adding that the man later died. 

Officers identified Baker as the 911 caller and a resident of an apartment at the complex. He told a detective that a man had forced his way into his apartment “unannounced,” according to the filing, and said the man “attacked” him.

According to the filing, Baker said a pistol fell from the man’s pocket and Baker picked it up and shot the man three times.

Baker told the detective the man had “chuckled and came towards” him when Baker pointed the gun at him and asked him to leave. The man ran and jumped out the window of the apartment when Baker pulled the trigger, he said.

Baker told the detective that “he did not know Victim #1 and did not know why Victim #1 would attack him.”

The filing also stated that police seized in the apartment a blue, plastic pistol box with a manufacturer’s sticker for a Bersa 9mm pistol with a serial number that matched the pistol recovered by law enforcement in the apartment after the shooting. 

About 50 glassine bags of suspected fentanyl were found on Baker, according to the filing. 

Baker was arrested Saturday for allegedly violating his probation, according to the filing. The document does not make clear why Baker was on probation, but it indicated that Baker had been convicted in January 2017 on a felony charge of marijuana cultivation. 

Also, in October 2018, the filing showed, Baker was convicted of aiding in the commission of a felony and sentenced to four to six years in prison, all suspended on probation except 60 days to serve. 

Brattleboro Police Lt. Jeremy Evans, reached Tuesday evening, declined to comment on the homicide investigation, other than to say it remains ongoing.

He also declined to release the identity of the man who was killed, saying that he was still waiting to ensure his family members had been notified. 

Evans said that police posted images on Facebook of a vehicle they are trying to locate that was at the homicide scene.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Vermont could not be reached late Tuesday afternoon for comment. 

No court date for Baker on the federal charges was available late Tuesday afternoon. He has been incarcerated at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.

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