Last week the Burlington, VT Police Department fired their first fatal shots at a suspect in 16 years. The event took place at the home of Brunette, who called the police to inform them that her son, Wayne Brunette, 49, was destroying property at the home. When officers arrived, Wayne Brunette was wielding a shovel. When he refused to put the tool down after repeated requests by the officers, they fired at him, and he died in a local hospital.
In the week following the incident, more details have emerged. The officer responsible for the shooting is Cpl. Ethan Thibault. The gun used was a Glock .40.
According to a new report from Seven Days, the Burlington Police Department is conducting two separate investigations into the incident. Court records also show that Brunette has a history of mental illness and the police had visited him at the home before.
Despite Brunette only possessing a shovel and not threatening the lives of the police officers in any manner, many believe that the officers acted appropriately and within the guidelines of the law.
Burlington police regulations state the following about the use of force by law enforcement officers: “An officer may use lethal force to protect him/herself or another person from what the officer reasonably believes to be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. An officer may also use lethal force to prevent the escape of a suspect where the officer has probable cause to believe that the subject has committed a violent crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily harm or death AND it is reasonable to believe that the freedom of the suspect poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or other persons.”
Because Burlington had a relatively strong record of avoiding the discharge of weapon, this case has become a high-profile one throughout the community. It will be interesting to see how Thibault is treated by both the public and the Burlington Police Department as the investigations into his actions continues.