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Bennington Police Officer Justified In Use Of Deadly Force
CONTACT: John Treadwell, Assistant Attorney General , (802) 828-5512
June 17, 2014
Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced today that his office has completed a review of a police officer involved shooting incident that occurred on April 22, 2014, in Bennington, Vermont. The office has concluded, as a matter of law, that Bennington Police Sergeant Michael Plusch was legally justified in the use of deadly force when he discharged his firearm at Gregory Filo, a 42 year-old Bennington resident. The legal standard for the use of deadly force is whether the officer reasonably believed that he or a third party was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, and that deadly force was necessary to respond to that threat.
The incident began the evening of April 22, 2014. Mr. Filo, left his apartment building on foot with a steak knife in his jacket pocket. He entered the lobby of the Bennington Police Department, approached the dispatch window, and repeatedly and forcefully demanded that Sgt. Plusch come out to the lobby to talk to him, gesturing with his left hand and keeping his right hand in his pocket. Sgt. Plusch asked Mr. Filo his name, but he only responded by again demanding Plusch speak with him in the lobby.
Plusch exited the dispatch area to consult with two other officers on duty. While Plusch was consulting with the other officers, a dispatcher viewed Filo, now with his back to the dispatch window, raise a knife clutched in his right hand above his head and bring it down in a stabbing motion towards another man directly in front him. The dispatcher then aired over the radio that Filo had stabbed someone in the lobby, though her observation turned out later to be mistaken.
Plusch and the other two officers opened the door to enter the lobby. As the door was opening, Plusch had eye contact with Filo. Staying at the threshold of the doorway, Plusch drew his weapon on Filo, repeating the commands, “show me your hands” and, once he saw the knife, commanded “drop the knife.” Filo did not comply with commands but instead raised his hand, with the knife still in it, and lunged towards the officers from a distance described varyingly by the officers as somewhere between seven feet and six yards.
Plusch fired one shot, striking Filo in the abdomen, and Filo fell to the ground. Officers then tended to Filo’s injury, and rescue arrived within minutes, transporting him to Southern Vermont Medical Center and then eventually Albany Medical Center.
As part of the investigation into this incident, multiple interviews were conducted of the three officers involved, the dispatch officers, and the civilian witness in the lobby whom Filo approached with the knife raised over his head. Additionally, the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team was involved in the investigation. As the investigation progressed, reports and recorded interviews were provided by the Vermont State Police to the Attorney General’s Office. The complete investigation report was received on May 16, 2014.
Under the facts of this case, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that Sgt. Plusch was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired at Gregory Filo. Given what reasonably appeared to be a serious threat to his life and to the life of the other two officers, Sgt. Plusch’s response of using deadly force was reasonable and justified. The Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office has completed a separate and independent review of the investigation and has reached the same conclusion.
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