BURLINGTON, Vermont — No criminal charges will be filed against two Burlington police officers involved in the shooting death of shovel-wielding man with a long history of mental health issues, Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan said Monday.
Cpl. Ethan Thibault, who fired the shots that killed Wayne Brunette, and Cpl. Brent Navari, who was also at the scene of the Nov. 6 incident in Burlington's New North End, were justified in taking action against a combative man, Donovan said.
"The death of Mr. Brunette was a tragedy," Donovan said at a Burlington news conference. "It was a tragedy for the Brunette family, his wife, his two daughters, his parents and his brother. It was also a tragedy for the officers involved, the Burlington Police Department and our community."
A report by the attorney general's office, also released Monday, said officers were called the Brunette's home after Brunette's mother called police and told a dispatcher her son had "gone berserk."
When officers arrived, Brunette was brandishing a long-handled shovel. After Navari asked him to put down the shovel, Brunette responded, "No. You're going to have to shoot me."
Brunette then charged Navari while wielding the shovel and ignoring commands to stop. Navari drew his firearm and retreated, but Brunette was within striking distance when Thibault drew Brunette's attention. Brunette then charged Thibault, who fired twice and then twice more after Brunette continued.
An autopsy later determined Brunette was hit by Thibault four times.
"Hopefully, the unfortunate death of Mr. Brunette will cause a redoubling of efforts to reduce reliance on law enforcement as the first responders to persons experiencing a mental health crisis," Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement. "Further efforts must be made to provide meaningful access to mental health professionals in such circumstances."