BURLINGTON, Vt. — The fatal shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect by a sheriff’s deputy was justified because the deputy thought he was in danger of being shot, state prosecutors said Thursday.
Franklin County Deputy Sheriff Nicholas Palmier shot Jesse Beshaw six times and grazed him with a seventh shot last month in Winooski after Beshaw, who police said was known to carry a gun, advanced on him with his hand concealed, prosecutors said.
Given Beshaw’s actions and what Palmier knew, a reasonable person in Palmier’s position would have believed he was in danger of being killed or seriously injured, so firing his gun at Beshaw was “justified as being lawful defense of himself,” said Bram Kranichfeld, deputy state’s attorney in Chittenden County.
Palmier was returning home to Winooski, just outside Burlington, from work in Fairfax when he saw Winooski police cruisers parked outside a residence and stopped to offer help on Sept. 16.
He was told by a police officer that Beshaw, who was wanted for several burglaries, was inside the apartment and had always been armed with a gun, prosecutors said. Another officer told Palmier they were looking for Beshaw in relation to armed bank robberies and a recent burglary.
Police said they previously went to a house when Beshaw was burglarizing it and he had a gun in his hand but threw it in a trash bin, where it was recovered.
“He’s definitely carrying,” an officer told Palmier, according to prosecutors.
When Beshaw abruptly came out of the apartment and ran down a street Palmier ran after him.
In a paved area behind a community center, Beshaw stopped and positioned himself with his right hand concealed at his waist, prosecutors said.
Palmier heard Beshaw say, “I’ll pull a gun out,” authorities said, although what Beshaw said was inaudible in a body camera video released Thursday.
Palmier drew his gun and aimed at Beshaw, shouting, “I’ll shoot you. I will shoot you.”
Palmier told Beshaw to show his hands. Beshaw backed up and then advanced on Palmier in an aggressive manner, moving his concealed right hand behind his back and shouting, “Do it! Do it!”
Palmier told Beshaw to step back, but Beshaw continued to advance, saying, “Do it.” Palmier fired eight shots.
Officers, including Palmier, administered emergency medical aid until emergency crews arrived, but Beshaw died at the scene. No weapon was found on him.
It’s the third fatal officer-involved shooting in the Burlington area in 10 months, which Chittenden County state’s attorney T.J. Donovan called “troubling.” Law enforcement is committed to working with the community to find a solution, he said.
Donovan added that police are being asked to respond to mental health crises and need the proper training to do so.
“Any training, best practice that would allow police to peacefully deescalate situations I’m supportive of,” he said.
This story has been corrected to show the quote about justification is from the deputy state’s attorney, not from the state’s attorney.