Video shows Vermont State Police use of force incident that led to criminal charges
A man who fell off a porch roof after a Vermont State Police trooper fired a projectile at him repeatedly screamed to the officers asking for help, but did not comply with numerous orders to drop the handsaw he was holding, according to video obtained by Vermont Public.
VSP Sgt. Ryan Wood and Trooper Zachary Trocki face criminal charges that they used excessive force during the June 2022 incident in Newfane. The troopers responded to a call that Marshall Dean was at a house acting “irrationally” and causing damage, according to a police affidavit.
The three-and-a-half minute body camera videos from Wood and Trocki offer greater details into the incident which led to criminal charges against two state police troopers, a relatively rare event.
The case took another unusual turn when a judge dismissed simple assault charges against the troopers, saying there was inadequate evidence that the beanbag round caused Dean to fall off the roof. The video appears to show a brief delay from when the shot was fired to when Dean fell.
Both troopers were arraigned last week in Windham County Superior Court on charges of reckless endangerment. They pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.
During the arraignment last week, prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office indicated they were considering refiling the assault charges, and providing the court with video evidence to support their case. Superior Court Judge Katherine Hayes said she’d be open to looking at new evidence, but only if it was included in a written affidavit.
The state police union, the Vermont Troopers’ Association, has said Attorney General Charity Clark’s decision to charge Wood and Trocki represents a dangerous precedent, and that the troopers were trying to resolve a difficult situation.
Warning: this video from Sgt. Wood's body camera contains profanity and graphic content.
The video shows that the troopers found Dean shouting and standing on a porch roof when they arrived on the scene at 2:38 a.m. The owner of the house, Russell Buzby, told Wood that he didn’t think Dean had any weapons, and that Dean was under the influence of heroin and cocaine and on the porch roof. Buzby also said Dean was bleeding.
“He’s gone in and out of every window back there,” Buzby told Wood, according to the video.
(Buzby died in November 2022 while the investigation was ongoing, according to a police affidavit.)
Wood asked Trocki if he had a “beanbag” and then tried speaking to Dean.
“Hey bud, we’re here to help you, what do you got in your hand?” Wood said, according to the video. “Put it down, drop it — drop it, we’re here to help you.”
Dean continued to yell for help, and at one point saying he’d put down the saw in his hand. After a minute of shouting at Dean to drop the saw, Wood told Trocki to use the beanbag shotgun, a less-lethal use of force option that state police carry.
“If you can take a shot, go ahead and take a shot,” Wood told Trocki, according to the video.
Warning: this video from Trooper Trocki's body camera contains profanity and graphic content.
Trocki fired a beanbag round at Dean, who appears to be hit by the round, and shortly after being hit falls off the roof, the video shows. The troopers were nearly 78 feet away from Dean when Trocki fired the round, court records say.
Trocki later told investigators that that shot “appeared to have worked … as a de-escalation and a compliance technique,” according to the affidavit of probable cause. Wood and Trocki also told investigators they didn’t realize how high off the ground Dean was standing.
The case against Wood and Trocki is the first time Attorney General Clark has filed criminal charges against law enforcement officers. Her office is still reviewing another police shooting from 2022, where a Burlington cop shot a man in the leg after he allegedly lunged at the office with a knife, court records say.
Police rarely face criminal charges for using force while on duty. The AG’s office, under the direction of Attorney General TJ Donovan, reviewed more than two dozen use-of-force cases and brought charges in four incidents. Of those cases, one so far has resulted in a conviction: former St. Albans cop Jason Lawton was sentenced to three months in prison in December after pleading guilty to punching a handcuffed woman.
Two of the cases didn’t result in convictions. A jury in January acquitted former St. Albans cop Mark Swartz of using excessive force, and in late-May a judge tossed out a case against Vermont State Police trooper Ryan Zink after the AG’s office didn’t disclose evidence to the defense until just before the trial.
Another former St. Albans cop, Cpl. Joel Daugreilh, faces a simple assault charge forallegedly pepper-spraying a teenager who was handcuffed in a holding cell in 2017. That case is still pending.
Questions, comments or tips? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org