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Hardwick Police Officer Justified In Use Of Deadly Force

CONTACT: Matthew I. Levine, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5517

November 25, 2009

Washington County States Attorney Thomas Kelly and Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that they have completed separate reviews of the police-shooting incident that occurred on May 29, 2009, in West Woodbury, Vermont. Both offices have concluded, as a matter of law, that Hardwick Police Officer Michael Gero was legally justified in the use of deadly force when he discharged his firearm at a vehicle being driven by Carey Bird. 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 Vermont State Police conducted an investigation of the incident. According to the investigation, Officer Gero had earlier received information that Bird had visited a residence in Hardwick, in violation of a court order, was reportedly suicidal, was armed with a shotgun, and would shoot anyone who tried to apprehend him. Officer Gero had also been given a description of the vehicle Bird was driving. After calling the Vermont State Police for back up, Officer Gero encountered the suspect vehicle being operated in a highly erratic manner, coming at him at a speed that appeared to be too high for the gravel road they were on. As the vehicle approached him, Officer Gero yelled, “Stop! Police!” but the vehicle instead increased its speed. Officer Gero tried to get out of the way, but the vehicle swerved in his direction. Officer Gero then fired two shots at the vehicle while continuing to try to move out of the way. The vehicle drove past him and no one was injured as a result of the incident.

Carey Bird left the scene but was subsequently apprehended by State Police officers without further incident. Bird was charged with motor vehicle offenses as a result of his conduct. He is being prosecuted by the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Under the facts of this case, the Washington County State’s Attorney and the Attorney General’s Office concluded that Officer Gero was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired at Carey Bird’s vehicle which was being driven in an erratic manner, heading towards him at an increasing speed, despite commands to stop. Given the serious threat, Officer Gero’s response of using deadly force was reasonable and justified.

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