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
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.
Winooski Police Chief Steve McQueen issued a press release:
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
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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