Two Vermont State Police troopers plead not guilty to charges of excessive force
Two Vermont State Police troopers pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges that they used excessive force during an incident in Newfane last June.
Sgt. Ryan Wood and Trooper Zachary Trocki are charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year. The charges stem from an incident last year where a man fell off a 15-foot roof after Trocki fired a bean bean round at him. (State police carry bean-bag rounds as a less-lethal use-of-force option.)
The attorney general’s office initially charged the troopers with simple assault as well, but Windham County Superior Court Judge Katherine Hayes dismissed those charges last week, saying there wasn’t evidence that the bean bag caused the man to fall off the roof.
During Tuesday’s arraignment, Assistant Attorney General Rosemary Kennedy said the AG’s office might refile the assault charges, and that they wanted to submit video evidence.
Judge Hayes said she would look at the new information, but only in a written affidavit.
“I think anything that's visible in a video can be described using words and can be written down,” Hayes said during the hearing.
Wood and Trocki responded to a call last June that Marshall Dean was acting irrationally and causing damage to a house in Newfane. Dean was high on heroin and cocaine, and was screaming for help, according to the affidavit.
The troopers talked to Dean, who was on a roof with a handsaw, for about two minutes before Trocki fired a bean bag projectile at him, according to the affidavit. Dean was hit by the bean bag, the affidavit says, and then dropped to his knees, crawled to the edge of the roof, and fell. Trocki was nearly 78 feet away from Dean when he fired the round, records say.
In a press release after the arraignment, the AG’s office said that Wood and Trocki’s use of force wasn’t justified, because there wasn’t any evidence that Dean was an imminent threat to anyone at the scene.
“Excessive use of force is the exception rather than the norm in Vermont, but when police use of force is not justified, there needs to be accountability,” said Attorney General Charity Clark in a written statement.
The troopers' union has said the charges against Wood and Trocki represent a dangerous precedent, and that both troopers were attempting to resolve a difficult situation.
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