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When should Vt. police use deadly force? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

When should Vt. police use deadly force?

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BENNINGTON, Vt. -

A Bennington man allegedly shot by a police officer was in court Tuesday facing charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The officer involved says the use of deadly force on Gregory Filo was justified.

Reporter Elizabeth Keatinge took a closer look at the use of deadly force in Vermont and how officers are trained to use the technique. She found different agencies have different policies when it comes to deadly force. Police say every situation is different, and ultimately the officer is the one who needs to decide if the threat is strong enough to warrant pulling the trigger and aiming for the heart.

It was a quiet night in Bennington back on April 22 that quickly turned chaotic as law enforcement responded to the Bennington Police Department.

"Members of the Bennington Police Department were involved in the use of deadly force at the police facility yesterday evening at around 20:30 hours," Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said the following day.

Officials say Gregory Filo, 42, was behaving erratically and had a knife. Bennington Police Officer Michael Plusch decided the use of deadly force was warranted and allegedly pulled the trigger, shooting Filo. Filo survived.

Officers say deadly force is not a law enforcement technique taken lightly.

"Talk to 'em, by all means. Contain them in a certain area so they can't run and hurt anybody. We can do that; we can sit for hours if we have to. We can get a negotiator to come and talk to them. So, deadly force is not what we are shooting for," Rutland Police Patrolman Edward Dumas said.

Dumas is one of the Rutland Police Department's firearms instructors. Tuesday, he was going over drills with some of the department's 40 officers, incorporating situations where an officer might need to use deadly force.

"It's all built to build stress on the officer, so that you fight that, so that you know how to operate under stress," Dumas said.

Although different agencies have different policies when it comes to deadly force, the Rutland Police Department says ultimately the officer needs to decide when to fire their Glock 21, the weapon most Rutland City police officers carry.

"Every situation is different," Rutland Police Chief James Baker said. "You train the officers to use their judgment and to understand the policy."

If the officer feels opportunity for the individual to do harm exists, a life is in jeopardy, and the ability of a person to carry through on a threat is present, they are instructed to shoot for center mass-- where the heart and other organs are-- and where the most damage can be done.

Why straight to the heart and not go for just an injury to a leg or arm?

"There's this belief in the community that, you know, officers should be able to be trained to shoot hidden extremities or... in a stressful situation that is almost impossible to carry out," Baker said.

Increasingly, officers are the ones being shot at. Nationally, there has been a 67 percent increase from last year to this year in the number of the police officers killed by gunfire.

Here in Vermont, in early April, a Leicester man was arrested after allegedly shooting two Vermont State Police officers following a shooting and standoff.

Sgt. Michael Plusch was put on administrative leave while the incident was investigated, but then returned to work.

Tuesday in court, Gregory Filo's attorney filed a notice asking for a sanity evaluation. He will be back in court Sept. 22.

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