Leo Lessor hadn't been home more than a few minutes when police evacuated him from his Middlebury home Thursday evening. They had his neighbor's house surrounded.
"Well, I said he probably finally lost it," Lessor said.
Police say around noontime, George Demarais, 57, called 911 claiming he wanted to die via suicide by cop. Police say the man had a history of mental health issues and threatening behavior. He was estranged from his family and in financial trouble. Neighbors say he was unfriendly.
"Whether he knew them or not he just didn't like neighbors period," Lessor said. "I've waved to him when I'm mowing the lawn. He wouldn't wave back. I brought him mail. Never even a thank you."
When officers arrived on the scene they found a note taped on the man's car that read: "Come and get me. I hope you can shoot straight because I can."
Police say Demarais' will was taped to the front door, but he wouldn't answer. Eventually he came out carrying a rifle, allegedly ignored commands to drop the weapon and disappeared into the woods. Police say they intended to call mental health services, but that plan changed in an instant.
"Mr. Demarais opened fire on the officers from sort of a protected position on a higher part on the hill in the back," Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said.
Police later learned Demarais had built a heavily fortified bunker stocked with shotguns, ammunition, food and water. Police say it was clear the former corrections officer intended to engage in a lengthy standoff. And they were losing daylight.
"Now we have someone out in the woods with a firearm who is apparently committed to destroying himself and whoever else got in the way, so we had to engage in some fashion," Hanley said.
Police say two officers armed with M16s fired back. The volley of bullets whizzed through the woods for 40 minutes. The chief says during lulls in the firefight, Demarais taunted officers as they pleaded with him to surrender.
"But he repulsed all efforts to give him any assistance. He was very committed to doing this," Hanley said. "He did engage the police in a firefight. He started it and he did not stop."
Demarais and police were 20 yards apart, yet it's unclear how many shot were fired or if the fatal shot was self-inflicted or from an officer's service weapon.
Vermont state police have since taken over the criminal investigation. Once that's complete, the case will be reviewed independently by the Addison County state's attorney and Vermont attorney general's office.
This marks the second fatal officer-involved shooting in Vermont this year.
Wednesday, April 16 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 04:07:42 GMT
Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow. Rivers are spilling their banks, roadsMore >>
Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-16 00:08:37 GMT
Flood warnings are in effect around our region as heavy rains begin to move through. There is already localized flooding at some of the typical problem spots, like the wrong-way bridge on Route 15 inMore >>
Parts of our region are already flooding and others are bracing as heavy rains move through. Not only is rain falling fast, but warm temperatures Monday melted snow, adding to high waters.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:06:00 GMT
A man had to be pulled from the Black River in Springfield Tuesday morning. The Hartford Fire Department says it's working to pull a man out from the river. They say he got stuck about 75 feet out inMore >>
Vermont emergency workers have rescued a man stranded in the middle of a treacherous section of river in downtown Springfield. More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 5:02 PM EDT2014-04-15 21:02:17 GMT
The sex crimes trial of a former prison guard has been delayed. Jury draw was scheduled to begin Monday for Richard Gallow. He is charged with sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct on a femaleMore >>
The sex crimes trial of a former prison guard has been delayed.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:27 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:27:17 GMT
Arson at the Albany Fire Department was an inside job. On Tuesday former firefighter Elmer Joerg pleaded no contest to setting the blaze. Investigators say the former volunteer was caught on camera settingMore >>
An arson at the Albany Fire Department was an inside job.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:26 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:26:03 GMT
There was a plea deal for a man who triggered a 5 hour standoff in Newport last fall. Derek Niles pleaded no contest to reckless endangerment Tuesday. He got a deferred sentence and will be on probationMore >>
There was a plea deal for a man who triggered a 5 hour standoff in Newport last fall. More >>