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Prosecutors Rule Shooting Of Mentally Ill Man Was Justified, Police Release Body Camera Video

Liam Connors
At Tuesday's press conference, State's Attorney TJ Donovan announced the body camera video of the shooting will be released to media. VPR has not decided yet if they will post the video.

Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan announced Tuesday that prosecutors will not file charges against the Burlington police officer who shot and killed a man with a history of mental health issues.

On March 21, police were called to 76-year-old Ralph "Phil" Grenon's apartment on College Street after receiving reports that he was shouting and making threats to stab and kill people.

Officers attempted to talk to Grenon and subdue him with Taser stung guns and pepper balls, but were unsuccessful. Five hours after they arrived on the scene, Grenon was shot and killed after advancing towards officers swinging a knife. 

Prosecutors in the Chittenden County State's Attorney's office the ruled that Officer David Bowers was acting in self-defense when he shot Grenon.

"The heart of the inquiry is whether the actions of Officer Bowers were justified because he reasonably believed that he or another was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm and whether the use of deadly force was reasonably necessary to repel the perceived threat," said Chief Deputy State's Attorney Bram Kranichfeld.

He went on to say that since Grenon had two knives, advanced on the officers, was acting erratically and wasn't responding to attempts to communicate, the use of deadly force was justified.

Niki Carpenter, Grenon's daughter, spoke at the press conference over the phone from Arizona.


"I hope that coming forward and out of this situation that progress and change will be made. That's what I think my father's hopes would be as well." - Niki Carpenter, daughter of Ralph "Phil" Grenon

"I understand, based on the facts of this case, that the outcome was what it was," Carpenter said. "I do not dispute Officer Bowers decision [and] based on the facts I do agree with the finding of the state's attorney's office."

However, Carpenter said she had concerns over how the police handled the situation that night.

"I would love to see programs where the police and those in the mental health profession are able to work a little more hand in hand so that situations like this are able to end peacefully in the future and not in the way they did with my dad," Carpenter said. "I hope that coming forward and out of this situation that progress and change will be made. That's what I think my father's hopes would be as well."

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said the police serve citizens and that night they were trying to help Grenon by subduing him.

"We consider our efforts a failure in this case. We did not come to the conclusions we strove for." - Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo

"We consider our efforts a failure in this case," del Pozo said. "We did not come to the conclusions we strove for. We're investing a lot of time, we're investing a lot of resources and everything we can do to have an outcome that abides by our commitments going forward."

Donovan said that body camera footage from the night of the shooting was released to the media. But he urged outlets to consider the implications before posting the video.

"The footage is graphic," Donovan said. "It depicts a member of our community being killed. And I think that common sense and decency and respect for the Grenon family would dictate that the news media does not play that footage for the public."

Del Pozo said that Officer Bowers is currently on administrative duty but he will eventually return to full duty. 

Update 2:15 p.m. 5/11/2016 After consideration, VPR made the decision to remove a still photo from the body camera video at the family's request.

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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