MONTPELIER >> Civil rights groups are urging Vermont law enforcement to release body camera footage related to a fatal shooting of an unarmed man in downtown Winooski Friday.
In a statement Tuesday, the New England First Amendment Coalition called on the Vermont State Police, the Winooski Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff's Department to make public footage related to the shooting of Jesse Beshaw.
The 29-year-old Winooski man was shot dead by Deputy Nicholas Palmier, of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.
Police were pursuing Beshaw for an arrest warrant for burglary. Beshaw attempted to run away by foot, and Palmier chased him behind the O'Brien Community Center on Malletts Bay Avenue.
Vermont State Police say that Beshaw advanced on Palmier while holding his right hand behind his back, prompting Palmier to fire seven shots. Beshaw was hit six times in the torso and head, and grazed by the seventh bullet. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
"As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it's necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust," NEFAC executive director Justin Silverman said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont joined the call for the release of the footage.
ACLU-VT staff attorney Lia Ernst said that swift public access to footage is key to maintaining trust in law enforcement.
"When all we're getting is the body cam footage as narrated by the police without being able to look at it and make decisions ourselves, the public trust function of body cams is utterly eviscerated," Ernst said.
Ernst argues it's in the public's interest to be able to see whether an officer was justified in his or her use of force.
"People can't come to that conclusion if they're just being fed a partial view or a view from the law enforcement perspective," Ernst said.
Vermont State Police public information officer Scott Waterman told VTDigger Monday that the footage "is evidence in an ongoing investigation and would not be releasable at this time."
He referred comment to the Chittenden County State's Attorney's office for information about release.
Bram Kranichfeld, deputy state's attorney, said Tuesday that the footage is evidence in the investigation.
"We're not going to release the footage until the investigation is complete," Kranichfeld said.
He anticipates that the police investigation will be complete in about two weeks and the state's attorney's review of the investigation will likely take a week.
The shooting of Beshaw in Winooski is the third fatal police shooting in Chittenden County in less than a year.
Kenneth Stevens, 56, was shot and killed during a police raid on an Elmwood Avenue home in December.
In March, 76-year-old Ralph "Phil" Grenon was killed after a lengthy standoff with police.