It was all caught on camera-- the moments after Winooski Police Corporal Jason Nokes allegedly shot trespassing suspect Isaac Sage back in April. Police say Sage punched the officer in the face during a scuffle.
"This is a case that's important; it's a case of public trust," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.
Wednesday, a grand jury decided Nokes should face charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment of another person and providing false information to a police officer for his role in the altercation with the unarmed, mentally ill man.
"You can't use deadly force in cases where you're hit, you can only use deadly force when that force or force that can put someone in fear of imminent serious bodily injury is directed at you," Donovan said.
"We are very disappointed," said Brooks McArthur, Nokes' lawyer. "We know the facts well, we know that Jason was doing his job appropriately, we believe when all of the facts come out, when he has an opportunity to defend himself, that will be the conclusion."
McArthur says he's ready to vigorously defend his client in court and says the defense can be at a disadvantage when decisions go to grand juries.
"Grand juries don't get the benefit of the other side; there's no cross-examination. So, I don't believe the decision is appropriate," McArthur said.
But legal experts say using a grand jury in a case like this can avoid the appearance of bias, especially because prosecutors and police regularly work closely with one another.
"This provides the opportunity for a group of citizens to have made an independent decision and makes it harder for someone to be critical of the prosecutor for either prosecuting or not prosecuting," legal expert Jerry O'Neill said.
If convicted, Nokes could face as many as 17 years in prison. Nokes is slated to be formally charged later this month.
Assault charges against Isaac Sage were dropped. That's because a state psychologist determined Sage was insane at the time of the brawl and mentally incompetent to stand trial.
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