Prosecutor: Officer shooting of mentally ill man justified
BURLINGTON (AP) — A Burlington police officer's fatal shooting of a knife-wielding mentally ill man in a downtown apartment was justified, the county prosecutor and attorney general offices announced Tuesday.
Ralph "Phil" Grenon, 76, was shot March 21 by Officer David Bowers in Grenon's apartment.
Attorney General William Sorrell said in a statement that Bowers "was reasonable in his belief that he and his fellow officers were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury" when he fired at Grenon. He said Grenon was "continuing to advance at the officers armed with knives despite repeated attempts by the police to resolve the situation peacefully" and after "multiple types of less than lethal force" was used.
"Under those circumstances, Officer Bowers' decision to use deadly force was reasonable and justified," Sorrell said.
But Grenon's daughter, Niki Grenon Carpenter, said by speakerphone at a news conference Tuesday in Burlington that she hoped the case would prompt changes in how police respond to cases such as her father's. She expressed frustration with a system that she said failed him in his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, WCAX-TV reported. Grenon had stopped taking his medication, she said.
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said he considers that night a failure.
"He was the man we were trying to serve," he said, referring to Grenon, the Burlington Free Press reported.
The incident began when a member of the Howard Center Outreach Team requested that a Burlington police officer accompany her to visit Grenon, who had previously threatened to stab members of the team and was facing eviction, officials said.
As Bowers and another officer accompanied the outreach worker, they learned of a 911 call reporting that Grenon was out of control and threatening others.
The officers did not get a response when they knocked on Grenon's door and asked him to open it so they entered using keys and found Grenon standing in the entryway with a knife in each hand. He refused repeated orders to drop the knives and slammed the front door shut, the attorney general's office said.
Over the next four hours, police tried to speak with Grenon by phone or through the front door to persuade him to come out, but he did not respond, authorities said.
Eight officers eventually entered the apartment and found him standing in a bathtub hiding behind a shower curtain holding the knives. The officers fired pepper balls into the bathroom and fired a stun gun but it did not subdue Grenon, authorities said. Grenon advanced at the officers screaming and swinging the knives, the Chittenden County prosecutor's officer said.
As the officers backed into the bedroom and Bowers could not retreat any further in the confined space, he fired six shots, hitting Grenon four times, the county prosecutor's office said. Officers began CPR and called emergency crews. Grenon died at the hospital.
The shooting was recorded on a police body camera.
His daughter, as well as Chittenden County State's Attorney TJ Donovan and Del Pozo, said Grenon should not be defined by the last minutes of his life.
"He was a wonderful man," Carpenter said. "Greatly loved, greatly missed."
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