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No decision yet on whether to charge two Vermont police officers in 2022 use-of-force incidents

The Attorney General's office hasn't decided whether to bring charges in two police use of force incidents that occurred last year, including one incident that is nearly a year old. The AG's office reviewed three other police shootings in 2022 and declined to charge officers. Those decisions were all made within four months of the incident occurring.

The Attorney General’s office has yet to decide whether to bring charges in two police use of force incidents that occurred more than eight months ago, including one case that’s nearly a year old.

In one incident from last June, a state trooper in Newfane shot a man with a bean bag round, knocking him off a roof, according to a press release from state police. The man was hospitalized, and has recovered, police say. In the other incident, from August, a Burlington police officer shot a 20-year-old man in the leg after he allegedly lunged at the office with a knife, court records say. The man appeared to be in the midst of a mental health crisis, and later told investigators he was trying to get police to kill him.

The AG’s office, along with a county prosecutor, reviews all instances where police use deadly force to determine if the use of force was legally justified. The reviews are generally finished within four months, according to a review of press releases from the AG’s office.

But the AG’s office has not made any determination in either the Newfane or Burlington shooting. According to a VSP spokesperson, state police forward their investigation of the Newfane incident to prosecutors in July, and their investigation of the Burlington shooting in September.

“We do not have an update to share, but the reviews are ongoing,” said Lauren Jandl, chief of staff for the attorney general, in a brief phone interview last week.

More from Vermont Public: Mental illness likely factored in recent policing shootings in Vermont, continuing a long-standing pattern

There were three other police shootings in 2022 and in each case the AG’s office declined to file charges against the officers. It took between two and four months in each of those cases for the AG’s office to release its decision.

Robert Appel, an attorney and former Defender General who’s represented victims of alleged police misconduct, said the length of time it’s taking the AG’s office to review the Newfane and Burlington cases is unusual.

“It's bad for the cops — they don't know what their future is,” Appel said. “It’s bad for the person who got hurt, it's bad for the profession and bad for public trust. You know, it’s not rocket science.”

Orleans County state’s attorney Farzana Leyva, whose office is also reviewing the Newfane shooting, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Burlington shooting is also being reviewed by Chittenden County state’s attorney Sarah George. In an email George said the review was delayed because of the availability of a person the AG’s office brought on to review the officer’s conduct.

The charging decisions in these two incidents will be the first issued by Attorney General Charity Clark, who was elected in November. Former Attorney General TJ Donovan stepped down last year to take a job at an online game company, and Gov. Phil Scott appointed Susan Young to finish the remainder of Donovan’s term.

The Newfane shooting

Last June, two Vermont State Police troopers, Sgt. Ryan Wood and Trooper Zachary Trocki, responded to a call at a home in Newfane at 2:15 a.m. According to a press release from VSP, the homeowner called police and said Marshall Dean, 61, was “acting irrationally and causing damage.” When the troopers arrived they found Dean on the roof.

The troopers tried to de-escalate the situation, police say, but when they weren’t successful Trocki shot Dean with a bean-bag round, and Dean fell off the 15-foot roof. (Police often carry guns that fire bean bags as a less lethal use-of-force option.)

Dean sustained “life-threatening” injuries and was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, according to the press release. A spokesperson for the state police said this week that Dean recovered from his injuries.

Wood and Trocki were placed on paid leave after the incident, a standard procedure for officers involved in a shooting. Both troopers are currently on administrative duty at the Westminster Barracks, according to state police. Wood's annual salary is $101,270 and Trocki makes $70,987, according to state data.

Wood was hired as a state trooper in 2012. Trocki, who fired the beanbag round, was hired in fall 2021 and graduated from the police academy in spring 2022, according to state police.

The Burlington shooting

Last August, 20-year David Johnson called Burlington police and told the dispatcher that officers needed to respond to an incident at Manhattan Drive, according to court records. Three officers arrived and found Johnson outside his house with a knife.

Officer Brock Marvin told Johnson multiple times to drop the knife, records say.

“I’m sorry Brock, I’m going to die today,” Johnson said, according to a police affidavit.

About four-and-a-half minutes after the officers arrived on scene, Johnson, according to court records, ran at Marvin holding the knife. Marvin fired his taser at Johnson and another officer, Sgt. Simon Bombard, shot Johnson in the leg.

In the hospital later that day, Johnson told state police that he didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just wanted the police to kill him.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George charged Johnson with two crimes related to the incident: aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Johnson was also charged with domestic assault for allegedly punching his mother two days before the shooting

A bystander was also nearly hit in the head by a bullet fired by police during the incident, Seven Daysreported. The newspaper also reported Bombard was trained to handle mental health calls and led the department’s crisis negotiation team.

More from Vermont Public: How qualified immunity acts as a barrier for alleged police brutality

Bombard was placed on paid administrative leave. Burlington Police did not respond to questions about whether Bombard was still on leave. Bombard makes $128,352.84 a year, according to city data.

The criminal case against Johnson is still pending. He was initially held in prison without bail, but his mental health deteriorated to the point that he was deemed incompetent to stand trial, according to court records. In January, Johnson was committed to the Department of Mental Health’s custody. He was hospitalized for three months and is now being treated at a residential treatment home in Williamstown, according to court records. Prosecutors plan to conduct a sanity evaluation once Johnson is deemed competent to stand trial, court records say.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message, or write reporter Liam Elder-Connors below:


Updated: May 10, 2023 at 3:56 PM EDT
The headline of the story was updated to be more clear.
Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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