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<B>State Trooper Matthew Hill hugs Emily Dibbler during a ceremony in Montpelier honoring Hill and fellow trooper Drew Cota for their work in saving the life of the little girl&rsquo;s mother, Ashley Gregory. (Supplied photo)</B>
Thursday June 21, 2012

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- While there's no good time or place for a person's heart to stop, Ashley Gregory, 25, of Bennington, was fortunate for it to have been on a state trooper's lawn.

According to Gregory's mother, Vickie Shepard, 50, of Bennington, on Aug. 6 of last year, her daughter was leaving Sheldon Springs, having just picked up her six-year-old daughter, Emily Gregory, from her father's house on School Street. Ashley Gregory began to feel dizzy, and realizing something was wrong, pulled over next to the home of Trooper Drew Cota, who was home and off-duty.

Shepard said her daughter knew Cota was a trooper and collapsed on his lawn. Emily Gregory's cries for help drew the attention of Cota, who performed CPR on the collapsed woman. Senior Trooper Matthew Hill was also summoned to the scene and assisted with CPR until a rescue squad could arrive.

Shepard said low potassium levels resulting from poor nutrition led to her daughter's heart problem, which put her in a coma for six months. Shepard said her daughter was declared brain dead and doctors said the family should consider removing her from life support.

Gregory woke from her coma, however, and was able to attend an award ceremony Tuesday in Montpelier for Cota and Hill, along with numerous other troopers and rescue personnel. Shepard said her daughter is doing much better these days and is expecting her third child soon. She said the entire family is thankful for the efforts of the two troopers.

Locally, Trooper Lewis Hatch was awarded the Combat Cross for actions he took during a shooting incident in November of last year. Trooper Kaitlin Armstrong, who was with Hatch, was also awarded the cross, as were two other troopers from separate incidents.

The incident occurred in Salisbury when the two were assigned to the New Haven barracks.

According to the Vermont Attorney General's Office, which investigated the incident, on Nov. 17, Hatch and Armstrong were sent to a home on Lake Dunmore Road in the early morning hours. A woman said a man who was living with her had left with a gun threatening to do harm to another man the woman was dating. The man had returned by the time Hatch and Armstrong arrived, and did not cooperate with commands they gave to step away from the woman.

The woman indicated to the two troopers that the man had a gun, and so the two drew their weapons and ordered him to show his hands. He didn't comply at first, and when they did see his hands, it was when he pointed his gun at them in a sweeping arc motion. Hatch shot the man once, injuring his hand and torso. The man retreated into the residence, fired once in the direction of the troopers, and killed himself before backup could arrive.

The Attorney General, after a routine investigation, ruled Hatch's actions were justified.

According to the Vermont State Police, "The Combat Cross shall be awarded for an individual act of heroism at imminent personal hazard of life in combat with an armed adversary."

Hatch, 23, came to the Shaftsbury barracks earlier this year, said Lt. Reginald Trayah, commander of the local barracks. Hatch had requested the transfer a week prior to the November incident, and told the Banner in an interview he wished to be closer to family in New York.

-- Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr