Burlington Police Officer Who Shot And Killed Suspect Won't Face Charges
Prosecutors have decided not to pursue criminal charges against a police officer who shot a Burlington man last month.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said at a press conference Monday that after reviewing a Vermont State Police investigation of the incident, he thought the shooting was justified.
With mental health and law enforcement leaders at his side, Donovan read from an account of Brunette’s final minutes. According to that account, Cpl. Brent Navari asked Brunette, "Sir, can you put down the shovel and we can talk about this?"
"Mr. Brunette then stated ‘No. You’re going to have to shoot me,’ and at that point charged at Corporal Navari," Donovan said.
Soon after, Donovan said Brunette turned his attention to Cpl. Ethan Thibault, who’d drawn his gun and was yelling at Brunette to drop the shovel.
Thibault fired when Brunette was "within striking distance with the shovel," Donovan said.
"It's a resource issue, but we recognize that we can continue to improve the way in which we interface with law enforcement in the community." - Bob Bick, HowardCenter
Brunette was shot four times.
The shooting raised concerns throughout the community about the way police deal with people in mental health crises.
Bob Bick, director of mental health and substance abuse services at the non-profit community organization HowardCenter, said last month’s incident is proof that Burlington must do more to address mental health issues.
"It’s a significant challenge," Bick said. "It’s a resource issue, but we recognize that we can continue to improve the way in which we interface with law enforcement in the community."
HowardCenter already has one employee who works with Burlington police to assist with residents who commonly experience mental health issues.
But Brunette wasn't working with that specialist, as he hadn't been in contact with police in years, according to Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling.
Despite efforts already underway in Burlington to help smooth the frequent interactions between police and individuals with mental health issues, one city councilor thinks it isn’t good enough.
"The goal is to make sure there's procedures in place that will give everybody the tools that might help prevent something like this happening again." - City Councilor Dave Hartnett
Councilor Dave Hartnett says Brunette was his high school classmate at Burlington High School, and that Brunette only had 10 or 12 bad mental health days in a given year.
Hartnett says he plans to introduce a resolution next month that calls for a comprehensive review of the Burlington Police Department’s policies regarding mental health calls.
"The goal is to make sure there’s procedures in place that will give everybody the tools that might help prevent something like this happening again," Harnett said. "And it might be too late for the Brunette family, but it might not be too late for the next family."
Hartnett said that Brunette was a great father and wonderful husband who will be greatly missed in the city’s New North End.