Burlington Chief defends use of deadly force - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington Chief defends use of deadly force

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Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling
Wayne Brunette/Burlington Police/2003 Wayne Brunette/Burlington Police/2003

Just looking at this two story home at 85 Randy Lane would not tell you what happened here. This plastic mask, a blue rubber glove and a tree with branches cut down are all that's left of a tragic scene that unfolded here Wednesday.

"It's not something that happens very often and it's one of those things, it's tragic for everyone involved," said Vermont State Police Major Glenn Hall.  Hall is leading the investigation into the Burlington Police shooting. He says, Corporal Ethan Thibault, a twelve year veteran of the Burlington Police Department shot and killed 49-year-old Wayne Brunette in his front yard.  Corporal Brent Navari took the call with him. State Police say Brunette came at them with a pointed spade shovel and they shot him. It happened less than two minutes after they arrived.

"Law enforcement officers nationwide are taught that in the event that you have to use a firearm, we are shooting for the center of visible mass, so if the visible mass is a leg, you may be shooting for that, but if the visible mass is an entire person, you're shooting for the middle of it," said Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling.

Peter Carpenter has lived in the neighborhood for two years now. He was home when it happened and heard the shots fired. "Right from first glance it seems a little excessive, but I don't know the whole story so we'll wait and see," he said.

While there are questions about whether a shovel is a deadly threat, Chief Schirling says wether its a shovel, a baseball bat or a big stick, if officers feel threatened they are trained to protect themselves.

State Police are still trying to figure out how far Brunette was from the officers. Chief Schirling says there is a point of no return when it comes to the distance between a suspect and officers. "Within the training as far as law enforcement in a national standard, We talk about a distance between 21 and 30 feet with an object, whether that's a bladed object, small or large, or any other object being a potentially imminent threat, because people can close that distance in less than a reactionary time for person," he said.

State Police detectives still have to interview the officers involved. That's just one part of an investigation that will also look at Brunette's history with police.
Burlington Police cars don't have dash board cameras. The department is testing body cameras right now, but only some officers have them -- and the two involved in Wednesday's shooting did not.

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