WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) It is not something you often see on a Vermont highway: a car stopped by police, the driver walking toward the officers with a gun to his head.
"Trooper Brown and Corporal Greenough continuously ordered Gregware to put the gun down," said Col. Matt Birmingham, the commander of the Vermont State Police.
The deadly showdown between the cops and Benjamin Gregware, 42, unfolded Sunday afternoon in Bolton. Police tell us they got a call from Gregware's ex-wife. She told them he was drunk, acting strangely and had just bought ammunition for his gun, a MAC-10. Police got Gregware on the phone. He allegedly told them he was an alcoholic and feared he would lose custody of his kids.
"Mr. Gregware told Trooper Riggins that he was going to continue driving south on the interstate and when he ran out of gas he was going to quote end it," Birmingham said.
Police put out an alert for his car. Tpr. Christopher Brown and Cpl. Richard Greenough of Richmond Police spotted the Honda Accord and pulled Gregware over. They drew their guns but they did not approach his car and they yelled for him to drop his weapon several times. The whole encounter was caught on cruiser cam. Police are not releasing it yet.
"Mr. Gregware is then seen opening his door and stepping out of his vehicle holding a handgun which he immediately pointed at his own head," Birmingham said. "Mr. Gregware did not comply with verbal orders and started walking toward the officers with the gun still pointed at his own head."
He never pointed the gun at the officers. Brown and Greenough fired 12 times. Three bullets hit the Sheldon father.
"As these events are unfolding, multiple cars can be seen traveling southbound on Interstate 89," Birmingham said.
Birmingham says there was not time to shut down the highway.
"Within a minute or two, there were shots fired," Vt. State Police Maj. Glenn Hall said.
For Tpr. Brown, a former member of the state tactical team, this marks his fourth shooting and third fatal. Richmond's police chief says this is its first time his department has been involved in an officer-involved shooting. Cpl. Greenough will be on administrative leave for at least six days. Brown will be on administrative leave longer.