BENNINGTON — A man shot by a Bennington police sergeant Tuesday night came to the station house that morning and asked to be killed, according to police.
Gregory Filo, 42, asked Cpl. Joshua Stemp to kill him “because he was in pain and had not been sleeping well,” according to an affidavit filed in Bennington criminal court.
Police said Filo was wielding a knife before Sgt. Michael Plusch shot him in the abdomen. He faces two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Filo, who is hospitalized at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center. Filo told investigators who traveled to the hospital Thursday, ‘‘I didn’t mean any harm to the officers. I wanted to die,” according to police.
The shooting, which took place in the station house lobby, was investigated by Detective Sgt. John-Paul Schmidt of the Vermont State Police. In an affidavit supporting the charges, Schmidt wrote that Filo approached Plusch and two other officers with a steak knife raised over his head, ignoring commands to drop the weapon. The officers feared for their safety, Schmidt wrote.
Filo’s knife blade measured about 4½ inches long, police said.
In an interview Thursday, an eyewitness to the shooting, Charles Coppolino, disputed police accounts that Filo approached the officers and said he was never afraid for his own safety.
Schmidt’s affidavit, however, said Coppolino told police he feared Filo would stab him.
Filo has a history of mental illness and hoped to commit “suicide by cop,” said Coppolino, a friend who lives in the same apartment house.
Schmidt wrote that Filo approached Stemp at the station house and asked to be killed at about 6:49 a.m. Tuesday. Stemp reported that Filo agreed to speak with a counselor at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center after leaving the station.
When he reappeared at about 8:30 p.m., Plusch was wary given Filo’s “appearance and demeanor,” according to the affidavit. Police dispatchers said Filo was pacing the lobby with gritted teeth and would not make eye contact. Filo appeared to be talking to himself.
Plusch, who joined the department in 1999 and was promoted to shift supervisor in 2010, consulted with two officers. Meanwhile, dispatchers Elizabeth Zwinenburg and Christina Gabrus monitored the lobby.
Filo approached Coppolino, who was seated, raised the knife over his head “and brought it down in a striking motion,” the affidavit said. Zwinenburg heard Gabrus say “something to the effect of ‘He stabbed him,’” the affidavit said. She then radioed Plusch and paged the Bennington Rescue Squad. Police later learned, however, that Coppolino had not been stabbed.
Plusch and Officers Thomas Bull and Keith Diotte then entered the lobby. The affidavit said Filo “advanced on the officers with the knife raised as if he was going to strike them.” Plusch then fired his service weapon, a .45-caliber handgun.
Filo has no criminal history in Bennington County, according to a court official.
State police tried to speak to Filo at Albany Medical Center on Thursday, but due to his injuries and his medication he was unable to sustain a conversation.
“But he did make a comment along the lines of, ‘I didn’t mean any harm to the officers. I wanted to die,’” Schmidt wrote.
Coppolino said Filo had attempted suicide in the past and been institutionalized. Coppolino said he thought his friend had recently stopped taking psychotropic drugs.
Plusch remains on paid administrative leave, per Bennington Police Department protocol. The department will conduct an administrative review of the incident, according to state police.
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