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State Police Officer Justified In Use Of Deadly Force

CONTACT: John Treadwell, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-0280

June 26, 2009 - Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office has completed a review of the police-shooting incident that occurred on November 17, 2008, in Bristol, Vermont. The office concluded, as a matter of law, that Vermont State Police Sgt. Stephen McNamara was legally justified in the use of deadly force when he discharged his firearm twice at Charles Cantin. 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 took place during the evening of November 17, 2008, at 38 North Street in Bristol, Vermont. Vermont State Police Sergeant Stephen McNamara, Trooper Peter Dempsey and Bristol Police Officer Ed Shepard were involved in attempting to locate Charles Cantin. McNamara and Dempsey were advised that Cantin was having mental health issues and was seeking to obtain a weapon. They then received information that an unknown individual had entered a second-floor apartment in Bristol. Given the information they had, it was reasonable to infer that this individual was Cantin. McNamara and Dempsey went to the apartment building and ascended the narrow stairwell towards the door of the apartment. As they reached the small landing at the top of the stairs, Cantin opened the door holding what was ultimately determined to be a golf club in his left hand. Cantin was extremely agitated and non-compliant with the Troopers’ requests. Dempsey pepper-sprayed Cantin. Cantin then swung the golf club toward McNamara and Dempsey twice striking the wall and door frame. McNamara believed that he and Dempsey were in danger of serious bodily injury or death and shot twice, striking Cantin in the hand. Cantin was subsequently taken into custody. Cantin was eventually charged with Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer and Burglary and is being prosecuted by the Addison County State’s Attorney.

Under the facts of this case, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that Sgt. McNamara was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired at Charles Cantin who was swinging a golf club at his head in an enclosed space. Given the serious threat, Sgt. McNamara’s use of deadly force was reasonable and justified.

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