Winooski police officer pleads not guilty in shooting - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Winooski police officer pleads not guilty in shooting

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Cpl. Jason Nokes Cpl. Jason Nokes
Isaac Sage Isaac Sage
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Police packed the Chittenden County Courthouse Thursday morning.

Winooski Police Corporal Jason Nokes stands accused of aggravated assault and two misdemeanors after shooting a mentally ill man during an April confrontation.

"Enter pleas of not guilty to each of the counts," said Brooks McArthur, Nokes' lawyer.

On April 25, Nokes responded to a possible trespassing call and encountered suspect Isaac Sage, who suffers from mental illness. While resisting arrest, Sage punched Nokes with enough force to break his nose and cause a concussion. A fellow responding officer tased Sage twice, but the device had no effect. That's when Nokes fired a round into Sage's left thigh.

"I've never been a police officer; I'm not going to pretend to know what they face day in and day out, but the rule of law here has to be followed," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.

Police are rarely charged after an officer-involved shooting. In the last 15 years, the attorney general's office has investigated 33 cases. Nokes is only the second officer to be charged.

Donovan told the judge the other officer on scene will testify that Sage did not threaten their lives, and Donovan says Nokes lied to investigators about the presence of a knife.

The charges aren't Nokes' first run-in with the law, but those prior incidents won't be admissible in this case. In 2011, Nokes pleaded guilty to a DUI charge. Police found him asleep in his car parked in the median of Interstate 89 with a blood alcohol content five times the legal limit. In 2007, Nokes required surgery after a stabbing incident. He says he was defending an abuse victim, but the accused claimed self-defense and prosecutors said they couldn't prove otherwise.

Thursday afternoon Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen issued a press release:

"Winooski Police Corporal Jason Nokes was arraigned on criminal charges today as the result of his involvement in a shooting incident on April 25 in which Cpl Nokes was assaulted and Isaac Sage was wounded. The State will determine whether a criminal act took place through the regular criminal justice process. It is important to remember that Cpl Nokes remains innocent until proven guilty, as afforded any individual indicted or arraigned in the criminal justice system.

In accordance with our Internal Procedures, I will contract with a highly qualified, independent expert to conduct an investigation of the incident. The investigation was necessarily delayed due to a request by the Vermont State Police to defer our investigation to avoid interference with their process.

The investigator will be tasked with investigating whether Cpl. Nokes's conduct violated any of the Winooski Police Department's policies and associated training.

Cpl. Nokes is currently on paid administrative leave and is still recovering from the serious injuries he sustained after being assaulted."

 

Donovan says he's ready for a trial immediately, but the defense plans on a more deliberate pace.

Nokes' defense attorney, Brooks McArthur, declined to comment following Thursday's court appearance. He did previously tell us that if a jury sees the evidence they'll acquit his client.

The Winooski Police Employees Association expressed its support for Corporal Nokes in an afternoon press release, but declined our request for an on-camera interview.

The other case when a police officer faced charges in a shooting was in 1998. Prosecutors charged an officer with misdemeanor reckless endangerment after he fired at, but missed a suspect. However, a jury later acquitted him of that charge.

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