BRISTOL, Vt. (WCAX) A Bristol man is in critical condition after being shot multiple times by police outside his home. It's the fifth police shooting involving state troopers this year and part of an upward trend in recent years. Our Dom Amato spoke with police about the incident and what's behind the increase in violent encounters.
The five shootings involving state troopers are the most they've ever had in a single year. Vermont state police have now been involved in 44 police-related shootings since they started keeping track in 1977. In every case so far, investigators have found the officers' actions were legally justified.
As the head of the State Police Major Crime Unit begins the investigation into this shooting, he calls the escalation of police shootings alarming.
Police were called to the home on Lower Notch Road Tuesday night for a domestic situation. A witness said Greg West, 28, was drunk and making threats. The caller told police West had a shotgun and there were children inside the home.
Two state troopers and a Bristol police officer responded, encountering West in his driveway. Investigators say the officers tried to de-escalate the situation and get West to drop his gun.
"This went back and forth for several minutes," Vt. State Police Maj. Dan Trudeau said.
But when West did not comply, the two troopers fired, striking West multiple times. He is in critical but stable condition at the UVM Medical Center.
"It appears the Bristol officer did not fire any rounds," Trudeau said.
"I can't discuss any details from the incident," Bristol Police Chief Bruce Nason said.
Investigators don't yet know if the encounter was captured on the troopers' cruiser cameras or the Bristol officer's body camera. That will be part of the ongoing investigation to determine whether the officers' actions were justified. All three are now on administrative leave.
This is the fifth police shooting involving state troopers just this year.
"Obviously, it's a big concern with us," Trudeau said.
The number of police shootings throughout Vermont follows a steady curve upward since 1977 according to Vermont State Police data.
"The numbers have increased quite a bit. We take training as a high priority," Trudeau said.
State police have told us they are working on de-escalation training but are trained to incapacitate or stop a threat.
"How that plays out varies from case to case," Trudeau said.
We don't yet know what prompted this shooting and whether these officers acted appropriately. But police continue to look for answers as to why the number of violent encounters is rising and how to prevent them.
Along with de-escalation training, they are examining the way they respond to these incidents. And there is also the issue of mental illness. After another recent shooting case, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said the state needs a thorough review of the systemic response to mental illness and crisis outreach to help avert these showdowns with police.