Police investigate officer-involved shooting in Pownal

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POWNAL, Vt. (WCAX) An investigation is underway after police say they shot a man in Pownal Thursday night.

It happened around 10:40 p.m. at a home on Short Branch. Police say 48-year-old Bernard Rougeau was reportedly drunk, had intentionally cut himself and fled into nearby woods carrying a gun. When he came out of the woods police say a trooper fired when Rougeau refused to drop the gun.

"At some point one of the troopers discharged his department issued shotgun," said Vermont State Police Major Glenn Hall. He says Rougeau came out of the woods with his gun pointed down. It's unclear how close officers were to him, but police say he refused to drop his weapon, and that's when he was shot in the torso. Police later confirmed that the shotgun was loaded with two rounds in the chamber,

"We do not believe he fired that shotgun. We believe that the trooper that fired two rounds -- at this point we believe those were the only two rounds fired," Hall said.

Rougeau has a previous criminal history and is a convicted felon. As with several other police shootings, the officers had initially responded to help him, fearing that he might be suicidal.

Neighbors say Rougeau was "troubled" and has had previous run-ins with law enforcement. They say he's been in an out of the Pownal home, which they say is owned by his mother. One neighbor says the gunshots didn't surprise them because there have been other issues in this area in the past.

It's the first officer involved shooting since State Police took steps earlier this year hoping to reduce violent encounters with people in mental distress.

"These are probably some of the most troubling cases," said Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan. He says his office was notified Friday morning and will review the case, but he says that overall, there needs to be more of a coordinated response to mental health crisis situations.

"We have to do a better job because the legal analysis is limited to those seconds or minutes that lead up to the shooting. We have to start having a more thorough review of the systemic response to the issues of mental illness and what we have in terms of crisis outreach to de-escalate and diffuse these situations before we are asking police officers to respond, frankly," Donovan said.

The incident will be investigated by the Bennington County State's Attorney and the Vermont Attorney General's office.

Major Hall says they again will look at this incident and see if there is something else they could have done. The whole incident was also caught on one of the cruiser cameras and Police say that video may be released once the investigation is complete.