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One Dead In Police Shooting Following Traffic Stop On I-89

Screenshot from WCAX stream of Vermont State Police Press Conference
Colonel Matthew Birmingham, center, director of the Vermont State Police at a press conference Monday.

Authorities are investigating an officer-involved shooting that took place after a traffic stop on Interstate 89 southbound Sunday, leaving one man dead.

The incident took place Sunday afternoon shortly before 4 p.m. in Bolton. Police identified the man as 42-year-old Benjamin Gregware of Sheldon.

Vermont State Police have identified the officers involved as Trooper Christopher Brown and Richmond Police Corporal Richard Greenough.

Vermont State Police: Sunday

According to information released by the Vermont State Police Monday, Gregware’s ex-wife called police Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. concerned that he was “not acting normal and his behavior appeared different from what she had been accustomed to when he was intoxicated.”

She expressed concern that he might try to harm himself.

According to the release, the officer she spoke to, Trooper Jay Riggen, was able to reach Gregware on his cell phone.

According to the VSP, “Gregware told Trooper Riggen that he was 'not OK.’”

He shared with Riggen that he was an alcoholic, and, “he felt that he was losing his children.”

Gregware told Riggen he had a 9mm handgun and ammunition with him.

He then said he was planning to “keep driving south on the interstate until he ran out of gas at which time he would shoot himself,” according to the VSP release sent Monday.

Riggen tried to convince him to pull over so they could get him help — but Gregware refused.

While on the phone with Gregware, his information was forwarded to troopers on I-89.

As Gregware said he passed exit 11 on I-89 S he told Riggen “he was going to disconnect the call and stop wasting people’s time.” The VSP says the conversation lasted about 20 minutes.

At approximately 3:50 p.m., Trooper Chris Brown and Richmond Police Corporal Richard Greenough caught up with Gregware’s car and pulled him over, initiating a “high-risk motor vehicle stop based on the information that Gregware was likely armed,” according to the VSP release.

Both officer’s cruiser cameras and Corporal Greenough’s body camera captured the “entire traffic stop to include the shooting,” according to the VSP.

Colonel Matthew Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, said Monday that the recordings will be “withheld until the criminal review of this shooting is complete.”

The release then describes the following series of events:

Gregware is then seen opening his door and stepping out of his vehicle holding a handgun which he immediately points at his own head. Tpr. Brown and Corporal Greenough continue to yell at Gregware to put the gun down multiple times. As these events are unfolding, multiple vehicles can be seen traveling southbound in the passing lane of IS89. Gregware does not comply with verbal orders and starts walking toward the officers with the gun still pointed at his own head. Both Tpr. Brown and Corporal Greenough fired multiple rounds and Gregware is seen immediately going to the ground.

Medical aid was provided to Gregware until rescue could arrive, according to VSP. Gregware was then taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where he later died.

Corporal Greenough has been with the Richmond Police for over 11 years. Trooper Brown, currently assigned to the Middlesex barracks, has been a state trooper since January 2012.

How Vermont State Police Handles Officer-Involved Shootings

Trooper Christopher Brown, Vermont State Police
Credit courtesy of the Vermont State Police
Trooper Christopher Brown, Vermont State Police

This is the third officer-involved shooting involving the VSP in the past six months.

It’s also the third fatal shooting Brown has been involved in:

  • In January, Brown was among the nine officers who discharged their weapons during the incident at Montpelier High School that left 32-year-old Nathan Giffin of Essex dead. Giffin was suspected of robbing a credit union earlier in the day armed with what was later identified as a BB gun.
  • In 2017, Brown was among five troopers involved in the fatal shooting of Michael Battles in Poultney in September 2017. Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy both reviewed the incident and deemed it legally justified use of force.

Since the incident in Poultney, “Vermont State Police has taken additional steps to ensure that our operational procedures and tactics are in line with national best practices, accreditation standards and other state police agencies,” Birmingham said.

Birmingham outlined the new policy in a statement Monday:

First, we have established a Critical Incident Administrative Review Committee to assess our administrative policies as they relate to critical incidents, including officer involved shootings. The committee is tasked with providing recommendations on the length of administrative leave our members take after a shooting, return to work protocols, and the mental toll that critical incidents take on our members and their families, to include the manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder. A final report on these administrative recommendations is due to me in early March. Our current policy mandates that any state police member involved in a deadly force incident must take, at minimum, three days of administrative leave and be cleared by our department clinician before returning to work. This policy has been in effect for decades and it is important that we assess whether more time is needed for our members after a critical incident. This committee is assessing the policies of other agencies across the country as well as consult with critical incident mental health clinicians to determine the best policy for our members.

Birmingham says that while the policy is not yet in effect, “we are not waiting to take appropriate action in this regard.”

“Trooper Brown will not return to full duty until the legal review of this most recent shooting is complete,” Birmingham said in a statement Monday. “Let me be clear that this decision is not an indication of any wrongdoing by Trooper Brown, but merely a change in the way the state police will now manage our response to officer-involved shootings as it relates to the health and wellbeing of our members.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
Emily Alfin Johnson was a senior producer for Vermont Public Radio.
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