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Hebron town supervisor "in disbelief" after deadly driveway shooting: "Not what we're known for"

Kaylin Gillis' photo from GoFundMe. She was killed Saturday in a shooting in Hebron.
Kaylin Gillis' photo from GoFundMe
Kaylin Gillis' photo from GoFundMe. She was killed Saturday in a shooting in Hebron.

What did you think when you first heard about the shooting that happened on Saturday? What was your initial reaction?

Well, we're in a very rural area here, and this just doesn't happen in our area. So I was dumbfounded, I guess, to say the least. But then of course, it turns to more emotions and mourning, and you just can't believe it happened in this small town. I was born here, raised on a farm. We're right on the Vermont border. It's very easy for people to get lost on back roads here. You don't know how many times I've been awakened early in the morning [by] people lost, run out of gas, over a ditch, you go tow them out, put them on their merry way. You never think of your own safety even. If someone's pounding on the door, you figure you need to go help them, you don't think that this is gonna be a situation. So I'm just fully taken aback by it. It's not what our community's known for. I mean, it's a very tranquil area, and it's known for its natural beauty. [It] looks like a small piece of Vermont, actually.

Are you familiar with the area where this happened?

Yeah, yeah.

What's it like?

Probably within...I would say it's within a mile [of the town hall]. It might be within two, but I'd say it's within a mile of the town hall.

Do you know the suspect in the case, Mr. Monahan?

Yes, he's attended our board meetings in the past and was always very reasonable. That's part of the shock. He was a contractor. And yeah, he was always reasonable when he came to meetings, never saw anything out of the way. And, you know it's... [I'm] still in disbelief.

Obviously we only know the details that the sheriff announced on Monday. What's your understanding of what actually happened?

Well, of course a lot of it was on social media. I was actually away at the time, and I woke early Sunday morning to all these text messages and emails that my wife was receiving. [Tell them?] what was going on, and of course the official reports, just due to the investigative status and all that, weren't getting anything. So everything was out early and I guess it was pretty accurate. They [Gillis] just got on the wrong road, and there's quite a few driveways when you're going up Patterson Hill, and they just took the wrong one. Just a simple mistake from what we can tell.

Do a lot of people in your town have guns?

Well, because it's a rural area, there's a lot of hunters in the area that live here. So I would say, I don't actually own a gun myself, but I would say that easily half the citizens here have guns. There's a lot of avid hunters. We're big with deer, turkey, woodchucks, there's even bear now. So yeah, a lot of people have guns. And sometimes it's for safety from animals more than anything else, but most of it's just sport for hunting.

What's it like having your town be the subject of these international news stories about this horrible tragedy?

Well, it's interesting because [we] never expected to be popular for the reason we're popular for. We have a whole cross section of people here. Some of the people are extremely poor to people that are extremely wealthy here and everybody in between, and we all get along fine. So, yeah, this is a total new situation for us to be in to say the least.

Have you had a chance to talk to family members or friends of Kailyn Gillis at all?

No, I have not.

I know you said a couple of minutes ago that you knew the suspect in the case. Mr. Monahan. Is this someone you've had a lot of interactions with? Did you get a sense of his temperament?

No, I’ve only seen him in a few board meetings from time to time. I don't even remember him being there on an issue, maybe work on the road or something? I don't even remember why he came to certain meetings, sometimes people just come anyway to see what's going on. But I just remember any interactions, it was just as normal as could be.

You talked about how cell service is a problem there. According to the sheriff, the car of young people had to drive quite a bit to get a signal to then call 911.

Yeah, well it's because of the mountains — they're not really mountains, they're large hills and wherever the cell towers are, you have to have a lot more of them. And of course, cell companies put them where there's more dense population because you need more people to pay for them. So it's just kind of interesting. At times like this, everybody says you need more whatever, but like you're on cell phone with me right now. AT&T is the only thing that really works in the town. But when you get [to] the main hamlet [which] is West Hebron, which is where this is, there's just three or four hills right there that keep the hamlet from having any service. When you enter the hamlet, you've got nothing. So that is a problem. But I don't know if it would have changed the situation other than maybe if they had their iPhone out and had a map, maybe it would've went to the right house I guess that could work that way. Yeah, it's the way rural America gets treated right now. We're the last to get cell service, last to get internet. But we've actually done quite well. With the state's phase three of the internet, Hebron is now 100% 5G here. Not cell service but with internet, we have fiber optics with slick networks. So we've been fortunate in that way, but the cell service, it's just going to take more time to get more towers, and I don't know if they'll ever be built in some of these areas. We even have dead spots where Sirius XM radio doesn't work. I mean, that's how you know it's just the terrain.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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