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MPD officer was cleared in excessive force case

MONTPELIER — The Montpelier police officer who shot and killed a man during a standoff with police in the Capital City last week was previously accused of using excessive force that led to the death of a city resident in 2012.

However, the case against Chad Bean was later dismissed.

In the early hours of Aug. 9, Bean, a corporal with Montpelier Police Department, was the officer investigators say fired two shots into the torso of 62-year-old Mark Johnson on the Spring Street bridge.

Bean was a patrol officer in Montpelier when he responded June 26, 2012, to a 911 call from a resident who reported a domestic dispute with her husband, according to court records from a civil complaint that was heard by a federal district judge in 2015.

According to court records, the man suffered from dementia and Parkinson’s disease, and had rotator cuff and joint issues, which Bean was not aware of when he responded to the call.

In court documents, the woman said her husband asked for additional antacid tablets and when she refused, he knocked the antacid container away and grabbed her wrists. The woman was able to grab a phone on the bed and call 911. During the call, the dispatcher heard the man tell the woman to hang up and was verbally abusive.

Court records said that when Bean arrived, he heard loud voices and screaming. Bean announced, “Montpelier Police,” kicked in the front door and he along with two other officers entered the home. They found the man holding the woman’s wrists and yelling at her, and she was crying.

Because the man was in his underwear, the officers determined he did not have a weapon, so they holstered their weapons, court papers stated. Bean was the first to enter the room and ordered the man to release the woman. When he failed to do, another officer attempted to release his grip on the woman’s wrists.

“At that point, Officer Bean performed the rear wrist lock, which he had been taught was a low-level force technique that uses pain compliance on a subject’s wrist to assist officers in controlling an individual or facilitating handcuffing,” court papers stated. “As Officer Bean performed the rear wrist lock by bringing (the man’s) left hand behind his back to cuff him, he felt (him) resist and pull away. At approximately this same time, Officer Bean heard a snap and (the man’s) left arm went limp.”

The woman tried to warn Bean that he could not use such a restraint on her husband, the court papers stated.

“I said, ‘You can’t do that, and it was too late. It was — he’d already — he broke it,’” the woman stated in court papers.

The man was taken to the hospital and admitted for treatment for an elbow fracture and underwent surgery to repair the injury with plates and screws. However, the surgical site became infected, leading to the man’s death Aug. 5, 2012, the court papers stated.

In dismissing the lawsuit, however, the judge ruled that Bean’s use of a wrist lock was “a reasonable means of obtaining control of an agitated and non-compliant individual whom he had probable cause to arrest and who appeared to pose an immediate threat to those in close proximity to him.”

Asked to respond to the 2012 incident involving Bean, Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos said in an email Thursday, “Regarding comments on that case, everything is in the court records, the city responded to the lawsuit and the case was ultimately dismissed in federal court. The case was also investigated by the Vermont State Police at my request and cleared by the (Vermont attorney general’s office). The officer’s use of force in that case was not excessive.”

At the time of the Aug. 9 incident, two Montpelier officers responded to reports of a man with a knife trying to enter the apartment of another resident at nearby Pioneer Apartments where Johnson lived.

According to Vermont State Police, last week Montpelier officers Bean and Chris Quesnel responded at 5:04 a.m. to see Johnson running away from the apartment complex, carrying what appeared to be a handgun resembling a Beretta 9 mm pistol. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun. Police have not said whether the pellet pistol was loaded.

Despite repeated requests to drop the weapon, efforts to de-escalate the conflict and offers to get help for Johnson, police said Johnson raised the weapon at the officers. Johnson was shot by police.

He was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, where he was pronounced dead. Johnson’s body was taken to the state medical examiner’s office where his death was ruled a homicide.

No police officers nor other individuals were injured during the incident that lasted 12 minutes. Montpelier Police officers involved were put on paid administrative leave while Vermont State Police investigate the incident.

When the investigation is completed, the case will be sent for review to the attorney general’s office and the Washington County state’s attorney’s office.

Johnson’s death was the second fatal police-shooting in the city following the death of Nathan Giffin, of Essex, after a nearly hour-long standoff at Montpelier High School in January 2018. After an investigation, the attorney general’s office did not press charges against any of the officers involved.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

Come Together

Participants in Thursday’s workshop titled “The Summer of 1969: From Easy Rider to Woodstock” join hands and sing along with concert footage of Joe Cocker on Thursday at Montpelier Senior Activity Center. Local resident and rock’n’roll aficionado Allan Mackey led the presentation and discussion, which featured many first-hand stories about Woodstock and other events in 1969.

Council crafts homelessness task force

MONTPELIER – Recommendations to deal with the city's homelessness were approved by the City Council on Wednesday.

Last month, the council rejected a call for a "no loitering" ordinance to move the homeless and itinerant population off downtown streets. Instead, the council called for the formation of a task force to address the issues of the homeless and services that could be provided to alleviate their plight.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the discussion about homelessness in the city inevitably became intertwined with the police shooting-death of Mark Johnson last week and the connection to mental health issues for some people who are homeless in and around Montpelier. Johnson suffered with mental illness from an early age, according to his sister who lives in Florida, although, he was not homeless.

Several people in the community expressed concern about the need for more services to deal with mental health crises in Montpelier.

“I think I speak for the council when I say that I’m so saddened and heartbroken over the death of Mark Johnson,” Mayor Anne Watson said.

Lawrence Siler, who hosts an ORCA Media public access TV show called “Abled and On-Air,” said he lives at Pioneer Apartments where Johnson had lived. He called for more resources to deal with mental illness and the homeless in the city.

“What needs to happen, in my opinion, is there needs to be more crisis intervention with the Montpelier Police Department,” he said, adding that police officers needed more training to deal with people with mental health issues.

“This should not have happened,” he said, referring to Johnson’s death.

Siler said the police should have spent more than five minutes to de-escalate the confrontation, although Siler acknowledged that efforts to do so ended when Johnson pointed a weapon at police officers. The weapon was later found to be a pellet pistol.

Zach Hughes, of Montpelier, said he was doubly saddened by Johnson’s death, following the death of another friend last weekend.

“I will be part of this effort (to address homelessness) and move forward,” Hughes said, adding that he would continue to support the Montpelier Police Department in its efforts to work with the homeless in the city, as well as people with mental illnesses.

Another resident, Peter Harris, said he was alarmed about “two police homicides in as many years” in the city, referring to the earlier police-shooting death of former alumnus Nathan Giffin, 32, of Essex, at Montpelier High School after allegedly robbing a nearby credit union in January 2018.

Harris called for “corrective action” within the police department, “even if the policeman (who shot Johnson) is exonerated,” he added.

Resident Stephen Whitaker said he agreed with Hughes’ remarks about the need for more police training, which includes a collaboration, called Team Two Vermont, with Washington County Mental Health Services workers in crisis situations.

Resident Elizabeth Parker urged MPD officers to walk city streets more to get to know vulnerable members of the community with mental health issues in case of future crisis incidents.

In a memorandum to the council about a task force to address homelessness, City Manager Bill Fraser acknowledged the problems on city streets.

“There is some conflict that exists between merchants, shoppers and those who choose to sit on the sidewalks and ask for money,” stated Fraser’s memo. “Additionally, there are sanitation concerns, as well as a lack of facilities for people to use.”

Steps Fraser suggested the council and the city could take included: providing rented temporary restrooms for about $220 a month, or possible permanent installations, and help developing an inventory of available bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities.

The task force could also recommend providing a single-site drop-in center, with access to information about services available to the homeless and research how much it would cost to fund a social worker.

The task force could also contact officials in neighboring towns and work together to plan coordinated services, Fraser said.

In his memo, Fraser noted that the local government and the task force “will not be able to alleviate all root causes of homelessness or vagrancy.”

“Nor will they be able to provide direct services in areas like mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse, poverty and other contributing factors,” Fraser stated.

Fraser said steps had already been taken to coordinate services with a meeting of representatives of various agencies, nonprofits and voluntary groups, including: Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter in Barre; Another Way drop-in center in Montpelier; Capstone Community Action in Barre; the Bethany Church winter warming shelter in Montpelier; Montpelier Police Department; and the Montpelier Social and Economic Justice Committee.

Fraser said staff recommended that members of a task force should include: two City Council members; one current or formerly homeless person; one downtown business owner (selected by businesses) and a member of the Social and Economic Justice Committee.

If a larger group is desired, Fraser said it could also include a school department social worker and a representative of the interfaith community.

Hughes, and a homeless man, both said they would volunteer to be on the task force.

A representative from the Vermont Center for Independent Living said the task force committee should include a representative that could help the homeless coping with disability issues.

Councilor Dona Bate said she would like to see more than one homeless person on the task force. She also suggested seeking grants to support the work of the task force.

Councilor Conor Casey said he would like to reach out to Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, to provide a link to the legislature to lobby for resources for the homeless.

Whitaker proposed changing the make-up of a task force to include providers – something Fraser advised against in his memo – and “passionate citizen advocates,” who could help provide work opportunities and other services for the homeless.

Whitaker also said there also should be a count of the homeless in Berlin and Barre, which should have their own task forces, and steps should be taken to provide a year-round shelter in Montpelier. Action was needed now with winter approaching together with a long-range plan, he cautioned.

Staff working on the task force already includes: Yvonne Bird, director of the Montpelier Community Justice Center, Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos, Fraser and his assistant Jamie Granfield.

The council agreed to review progress on the homelessness task force at its next meeting.

Vermont Drug Task Force arrests 59

BARRE — The Vermont Drug Task Force says it has arrested 59 people in a weeks-long drug sweep, three of whom are from central Vermont.

According to a news release, those arrested were charged with selling and distributing heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine as well as other crimes.

“The Drug Task Force conducts hundreds of investigations annually into various levels of illegal drug activity and is committed to aggressively pursuing those people who sell or distribute these poisonous drugs, or who aid individuals who are selling them,” the release stated. “These drugs are dangerous to the person taking them and invite violence into our communities.

“At the same time, the Vermont State Police is equally committed to helping individuals find treatment for their addiction, and to assisting them on their path to recovery. During this operation, the task force partnered with the Vermont Department of Health to provide information on treatment and recovery services to those who have a drug dependency.”

The vast majority of those arrested were from the southern or northern part of the state. But three of them were from central Vermont.

Earlier this month Eldin Kamberovic, 30, of Montpelier, pleaded not guilty in Washington County criminal court in Barre to felony counts of trafficking and selling fentanyl, and a misdemeanor count of violating conditions of release. If convicted, Kamberovic faces a maximum sentence of 50½ years in prison. He was ordered held at Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury on 10,000 bail.

According to its affidavit, the task force started an investigation in April into the distribution of fentanyl in Washington County. The task force said the target of the investigation was Kamberovic.

The task force said it set up a controlled buy using a cooperating individual. The individual was given money by the task force and bought 236.7 milligrams of a substance that field tested positive for fentanyl, according to court records.

Jayvian W. Poitras, 20, of East Barre, pleaded not guilty Thursday to a felony count of narcotic possession and a misdemeanor count of possession of stolen property. If convicted, Poitras faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison. He was released on conditions.

The task force said in its affidavit for that case prescription medication was reported stolen from the UPS facility in Berlin. It said UPS reported multiple packages had been stolen from the facility.

The task force said it spoke to an employee at UPS who reported she had interviewed Poitras and he had admitted to stealing the packages.

Poitras agreed to let the task force search his car and his bedroom where it found multiple prescription medications valuing about $200, according to court records.

Santos DeJesus, 28, of Barre, pleaded not guilty last month to a felony count of selling cocaine. If convicted, DeJesus faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He was released on conditions.

In the affidavit for that case, the task force said it started an investigation in January into cocaine distribution in Washington County with the focus being DeJesus. The task force said it used a cooperating individual for a controlled buy from DeJesus. The individual was given money, met with DeJesus and returned with a substance that weighed nearly a gram and field tested positive for cocaine.

Seventeen of the arrests were in Rutland County, most in the city.

Zachary Lapoint, 29, and Theodore Thompson, 44, both of Rutland, along with 45-year-old Todd Dayton of Granville, New York, were charged with one count each of sale of crack.

Lucas Gagnon, 35, and David Stearns, 27, of Rutland; Whitney Carmen, 28 and Joshua Cave, 42, of Tinmouth, and Camilo Matus, 36, and Felix Colon, 21, of Waterbury, Connecticut, each face one charge of sale of heroin.

Other defendants from the City of Rutland include 33-year-old Sara Muzzy (two charges of selling heroin), 36-year-old Jennifer Loso (three charges of selling heroin), 38-year-old Joshua Reed (four charges of selling heroin, one of possessing crack), 31-year-old Michael Shively (one charge each of selling heroin, selling crack and possessing heroin), 31-year-old Cassandra Johnson (one charge each of selling heroin, possessing crack and possessing fentanyl), 48-year-old Steven Stone (four charges of selling crack)

Brittany Fields, 27, of Rutland, had the most diverse collection of charges, with one each for selling heroin, selling crack and possessing crack along with two for violating her conditions of release.

Outside the city, Brian Bruso, 60, of Fair Haven, is facing two charges of selling heroin.

The additional arrests included: Alexya Garcia, 27, of Bennington, on a charge of selling heroin; Abbie Harrington, 23, of Bennington, on a charge of selling heroin; Michael Allard, 33, of Bennington, on a charge of selling heroin; John Chapman, 27, of Bennington, on two counts of selling heroin; Bradley Haynes, 29, of Bennington, on two counts of selling heroin; Daniel Silverman, 48, of Brattleboro, on a charge of selling heroin; Nathan Hazlett, 46, of Brattleboro, on two counts of selling heroin and one count of selling crack cocaine; Sylvester Little, 45, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling crack cocaine; Billy Jo Wilder, 43, of Putney, on a count of selling heroin; Dean Gero, 52, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling heroin; Trent Johnson, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling crack cocaine; Kimberley Morgan, 31, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling crack cocaine; Marshall Dean, 58, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling heroin; Holly Magnuson, 26, on two counts of selling crack cocaine; Scott Haselton, 52, of Brattleboro, on a count of selling crack cocaine.

In addition, Eric Fortune, 34, of Bellows Falls, was charged with selling heroin; Kari Reilly, 37, of Guilford, was charged with three counts of selling heroin and one count of selling crack cocaine; Kyle Arie, 34, of Springfield, faces a count of selling heroin; Peter Garrett, 32, of Brattleboro, for the sale of crack cocaine; Bobby Bethune, 19, of Brattleboro, faces two counts of selling crack cocaine; Jorge Delaoz, 50, of Brattleboro, faces two counts of selling heroin; Corey Archer, 39, of Newfane, faces a count of selling crack cocaine; Reginald French, 53, of Winchester, faces three counts of selling heroin; Aaron Camp, 30, of Newport, faces one count of selling heroin and two counts of selling crack cocaine; Monica Capron, 40, of Newport, faces two counts of selling fentanyl; Meagan Blake, 31, of Coventry, faces five counts of selling crack cocaine and one count of selling heroin; Kayla Wright, 25, of Newport, faces one count each of selling heroin and crack cocaine; Kassandra Medellin-Oliver, 32, of Newport, faces three counts of selling heroin; Justin Morgan, 27, of Newport, faces two counts of selling crack cocaine; Erik Polite, 39, of Newport, faces a count of selling crack cocaine; Edwin R. Mejia, 40, of New Britain, Connecticut, faces three counts of selling crack cocaine; Corey Green, 45, of Orleans, faces two counts of selling crack cocaine and one count of selling heroin; Brooke Rowell, 36, of Burlington, faces four counts of violation of conditions of release, a count of sale of a non-controlled substance as controlled, and three counts of selling crack cocaine; Justin Barlow, 27, of Springfield, faces four counts of selling crack cocaine.

In addition, Ashley Penniman, 35, of Newport, faces a charge of selling crack cocaine; Allen Marsh, 50, of Newport, faces four counts of selling crack cocaine; Charles Lambert, 41, no address given, was charged with three counts of selling crack cocaine; David Godin, 39, of Burlington, faces one count of selling crack cocaine; and Franklin Estevez, 27, no address given, faces two counts of selling crack cocaine and two counts of selling heroin

eric.blaisdell @timesargus.com

Jpkuckens / Josh Kuckens / Staff Photo  

Brown Bagging

Taylor Armerding takes the lead on vocals and mandolin with his band The Revenants during Thursday afternoon’s Hunger Mountain Co-Op Brown Bag Concert Series on the steps of Montpelier City Hall.

Barre sewer rates aren't out of step despite needed increase

BARRE — They aren’t covering costs, and absent the multi-year rate increase approved by city councilors this week that problem would have been exacerbated, but Barre’s sewer rates aren’t as “shockingly low” some have suggested.

That doesn’t mean the rate adjustments weren’t warranted.

In order to address what has become an annual operating deficit in the sewer fund and absorb significant new expenses — some of which were approved by voters and all of which are unavoidable — the series of increases blessed by councilors Tuesday night were required.

However, the suggestion Barre’s two-tiered sewer rate was woefully low compared to other Vermont communities appears to be misleading at best based on an analysis performed by city staff.

Water rates aside, heading into Tuesday night’s meeting the city was charging its sewer customers $2.70-per-100-cubic feet of wastewater they generate — a rate that will more than double over the next four years based on the newly approved plan. The first in a series of four 20% increases is being used to calculate bills that will soon be mailed and the consumption-based rate now stands at $3.24-per-100-cubic feet.

According to the staff analysis, that’s significantly lower than the comparable rate — $5.82-per-$100-cubic feet — now being charged in Burlington. In fact, following a series of annual 20 percent increases the rate would be lower in Barre four years from now — $5.60-per-100-cubic feet — than it is in Burlington today.

Those numbers seem to buttress Councilor Rich Morey’s “shockingly low” claim, but they only tell half the story.

According to the staff analysis, Burlington raises all of its sewer revenue with the consumption-based rate, while Barre levies an additional ready to serve charge that is assessed quarterly whether its sewer customers ever flush a toilet, take a shower or wash a dish.

That matters, because while there is a wide divide in how much sewer customers in Barre and Burlington are charged for the wastewater they generate, the customer in Barre was already paying more on a quarterly basis for that service before the first of four 20 percent increases went into effect on Tuesday.

According to the staff analysis, a Burlington customers that generate 1,150 cubic feet of wastewater a quarter would see a corresponding rate-based charges of $66.93 included in their water and sewer bills.

A comparable customer in Barre would have paid $75.33 for generating the same amount of wastewater under the old rates and will be billed $83.31 under the newly approved ones.

However, more than half of Barre’s sewer charge — $46.05 — is tied to the quarterly “base” charge that just ticked up 4 percent.

Waterbury has a comparable quarterly base rate, charging customers of its sewer system $46.20 a quarter for that service. However, its consumption-based rate — $2.89-per-100-cubic feet — wasn’t significantly higher than Barre’s was and is now lower.

According to the data compiled by city staff, the same theoretical 1,150-cubic-foot-a-quarter customer would be billed $79.24 for three months of sewer service in Waterbury and $83.31 in Barre.

The quarterly comparison between Barre and Rutland shows next to no difference in what customers would pay despite the fact the consumption-based component of Rutland’s sewer rate structure — $5.75-per-100-cubic feet — is significantly higher than Barre’s.

According to the staff analysis, Rutland’s base charge for sewer is only $17.55 a quarter – nearly $30 less than the comparable fee in Barre.

The rates from other communities used in the analysis are pulled from a November 2018 study and are dated. That is definitely true with respect to Montpelier.

According to the document provided to councilors Montpelier charges its sewer customers 9.20-per-$1,000 gallons of sewer usage and a quarterly ready-to-serve charge of $51. Those rates have since been increased to $9.50 and $54.

Either way, the just increased rates in Barre are a bargain by comparison. Based on comparable consumption — 1,150 cubic feet or 8,603 gallons — the quarterly sewer bill in Montpelier is more than $52 higher than than would be generated based on the just-increased rates in Barre.

david.delcore @timesargus.com


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Editorial, A4

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Casino Night Benefit

11 Vegas-style gaming tables, cash bar, silent auction and prizes for all. All proceeds benefit Tender Loving Respite House. $30/pp or $50/couple, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Old Labor Hall, 46 Granite Street, Barre, 802-363-6906.