By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
COLCHESTER – A massive manhunt for a Fairfax man wanted for near fatal shooting earlier in the day ended Wednesday afternoon when he turned the handgun on himself as police began to close in on him in a wooded area near Creek Farm Road.
Evan Labonte, 24, had been sought since he ambushed Ryan Prue, 28, at close range as he backed his sedan out of the garage at 50 Meadow Lane in Underhill about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, state police said.
The incident began overnight Tuesday when Labonte sent multiple text messages to a former girlfriend, who is now dating Prue, police said.
Prue was struck by multiple rounds but managed to return inside the home, where police and rescue crews were summoned. The intensive manhunt soon began.
The widespread search for Labonte got a break about 10:55 a.m. when Sgt. Rob Sylvia of the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department in an unmarked vehicle spotted Labonte’s car near the Sand Bar State Park on U.S. 2 in Milton.
While waiting for sufficient backup support, Deputy Sylvia trailed the gunman to the area of Breezy Acres Trailer Park near Creek Farm Road and U.S. 2 & 7 in Colchester. Labonte reportedly had a relative in the area.
Labonte was eventually found in a wooded, marshy area between Creek Farm Road and Interstate 89. The heavy wooded area made it difficult for a state police drone to view Labonte continuously, Capt. Garry Scott said. Attempts to reach him on his cell were unsuccessful, Scott said.
As officers including members of the State Police Tactical Services Unit tried to start talking with Labonte from a distance, he was observed placing a handgun to his head. He fired one shot, killing himself about 2:55 p.m., police said.
Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies had converged on the area in an attempt to peacefully apprehend Labonte, State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said.
Prue was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington with multiple gunshot wounds, police said Wednesday night.
State police had issued updates and warnings throughout the day urging Colchester residents to remain inside their homes and to lock doors.
Police warned Labonte might still have the handgun used in the shooting and should be considered armed and dangerous.
Labonte was described as a slim white man, about 5-feet-6, 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a red sweater and low-hanging jeans.
Besides state police and the Chittenden Sheriff’s Office, other police departments involved were Colchester, Burlington, Essex, Milton, Winooski and the University of Vermont and Winooski. Also the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles; game wardens from the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection;
Also assisting were the Colchester and Essex rescue squads; Colchester Technical Rescue; and the Underhill- Jericho Volunteer Fire Department.