Recently, the Chief of Police wrote a letter to the people of Brattleboro, referencing the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
He mentioned that the police have a professional duty to protect and serve everyone in the community with dignity and respect. He also related that “We have made de-escalation tactics a priority in use of force trainings. Once the resistance stops or the situation is under control, the tactics need to evolve with the situation.”
It was not always that way here in Brattleboro.
On December 2, 2001, shortly before services were scheduled to begin at All Souls U/U church in West Brattleboro, a tearful stranger was standing at the altar podium, speaking about the environment, civil rights and his fears of being hunted down, tortured and killed by the FBI. He begged for “sanctuary”.
Eyewitnesses report his saying: “If the police are called, I will be killed.” He claimed to have been threatened at his home the previous evening by CIA or FBI agents.
A parishioner placed a 911 call, saying the man was “deathly afraid” of authorities, that he had a small knife and was threatening to take his own life.
At about 10:10 a.m. three veteran Brattleboro police officers with bulletproof vests and automatic weapons entered the church– every one of them over 200 pounds – and then there’s this scrawny 140 pound guy, in a t-shirt, holding a knife to his own eye, terrified of being hunted and disappeared.
What the police found was a group of people seated beside the altar consoling the man. The situation had been de-escalated. All of the eyewitnesses present have said that they never felt threatened
The Police officers shouted at the man from the back of the church. With no attempt to negotiate or to disable him with pepper spray, two of the officers — trained in hostage negotiation and the use of less-than-lethal force — pumped SEVEN .40 caliber bullets into him, five times after he was down. (He was shot from above as he lay curled in the fetal position on the floor.) Police then handcuffed him stomach down.
Prior to the arrival of EMT’s, and for some time thereafter, a professional nurse -eyewitness pleaded with police to be allowed to treat him and stop the bleeding. Police refused.
Moaning about “political assassination” and “global warming” and crying “I love you,” he remained conscious, dieing at about 2 p.m.
I am a member of All Souls. I was not present at the incident, but I know many who were.
We have discussed it on numerous occasions.
Eventually, The State’s Attorney-General fully and totally exonerated the police.