- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2021

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -

A Vermont man who police say wrote notes that suggested potential threats against the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines was arrested on a federal gun charge.

Aaron Loucks, 27, of Burlington made an initial appearance in federal court on Thursday on charges that he possessed a firearm while being a drug user.

He was detained pending further proceedings, the U.S. attorney’s office said. His attorney did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

According to the complaint, Loucks has struggled with psychological and drug addition issues since high school, the U.S. attorney’s office said.



On Dec. 10, he was charged with breaking the windows of a Burlington storefront with a hammer.

On Dec. 15, 2020, someone familiar with him contacted the Burlington Police Department out of concern for public safety because of Louck’s declining mental health, according to an affidavit from a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Loucks had reportedly bought a handgun “to protect himself and his family” and the source said Loucks believes that the government and the “deep state” are after him and that the COVID-19 screening precautions are a part of the government conspiracy to gain control over the population, the affidavit said. On Dec. 16, Shelburne police arrested Loucks for having a semi-automatic pistol after he drove to a residence in Shelburne with the gun in his possession, police said.

Several notes that police found appeared to show a message directed at COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts, listing tactics and strategies, hospital locations, pharmacies, prisons, nurses, doctors and colleges, the agent said.

In other coronavirus-related news from Vermont:

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VIRUS VARIANT

The new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus is likely already in the state, the president of the University of Vermont Medical Center said.

Dr. Stephen Leffler said that residents should not be surprised if the first case is confirmed within the next five to 10 days, WCAX-TV reported. The new variant is more infectious than earlier strains of the virus, but is not more deadly, he said at a Burlington city press conference on Wednesday.

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BENNINGTON POLICE CHIEF DETAILS COVID-19 EXPERIENCE

The chief of the Bennington Police Department talked about the “scary” experience of contracting COVID-19.

Chief Paul Doucette, four other officers and a civilian employee tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-December. One of those people, whose name has not been released, is in the hospital and the five others have returned to work, including the chief, the Bennington Banner reported.

“I know there are many people that think that this was someone’s political agenda. And that COVID-19 is not real. I know that there are people that don’t want to wear masks. But I’m here to tell you that COVID-19 is real,” Doucette said.

He isolated for 12 days at home and said he could not shake the fever.

“There were times when I felt like someone had taken a ratchet strap and just wrapped it around my chest. I just couldn’t get a deep breath, and it was very scary for me,” Doucette said, noting that his wife and son also tested positive despite following recommended precautions.

Officials think the virus was spread in the police department when officers shared a computer for a remote hearing, although employees had followed protocols of wearing masks, washing hands and staying 6 feet (2 meters) apart. The police department notified people who needed to quarantine with the help of the Vermont Health Department and the Bennington human resources department, Doucette said.

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THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 214 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, for a statewide total of 8,403 since the pandemic began.

A total of 36 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with eight in intensive care, the Health Department said.

Of the new cases, 72 were in Chittenden County, 41 in Addison County and 19 in Windsor County.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 95.86 new cases per day on Dec. 23 to 126 new cases per day on Jan. 6.

The latest average positivity rate in Vermont is 2.66%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Vermont the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 1.9% on Dec. 23 to 2.66% on Jan. 6.

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