The Vermont Attorney General, the Chittenden County State’s Attorney and Vermont State Police on Friday released the results of an investigation into an officer-involved shooting during a traffic stop on Interstate 89 in Richmond that left a Sheldon man dead. Some listeners may find this story upsetting.
On February 11th, Vermont police received a call from Melissa Gregware informing them that her ex-husband was distraught, driving drunk, had just purchased a gun and had told her he wasn’t coming back. Police issued an alert for Benjamin Gregware and were able to contact him by phone. Mr. Gregware confirmed he was on the interstate, planned to drive until he ran out of gas and then “end it.” He refused offers of help. A short time later State Police Trooper Christopher Brown and Richmond Corporal Rick Greenough both separately pursued Gregware and stopped him on the shoulder of the highway.
Gregware got out of his car with his gun pointed at his head.
Body cam video shows that he advanced on the officers and after repeated calls to drop his weapon, officers fired.
“Coming out, coming out, coming out. Drop the gun! Drop the gun. Do it now. Drop the gun. Drop the gun. Drop the gun.” Gunshots are then heard.
Bram Kranichfeld is Criminal Division Chief at the Vermont Attorney General’s office. “These police officers were confronted with an individual who they believed to be intoxicated holding what appeared to be an assault pistol on the side of a busy highway who repeatedly refused to obey commands. Given Mr. Gregware’s actions and behavior a reasonable person would have believed that Mr. Gregware presented an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officers and other nearby individuals. Therefore the actions of the officers were justified. For these reasons the Attorney General’s office will not be filing charges against Trooper Brown or Corporal Greenough for their actions in this incident and absent the receipt of additional and material information or evidence considers this review to be concluded.”
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George concurred with the Attorney General’s findings and also urged those who need help to seek assistance. “The decision regarding criminal charges does not negate the fact that Mr. Gregware died on February 11th. He was a son, a father, a partner and a friend to many and the loss of his life is tragic and unfortunate. The day of this incident does not define him and I hope that those who knew him can remember him on the best of his days. The state’s attorneys’ office sends its sincerest condolences to his family and friends. To the community and the state of Vermont I want to stress that if you are experiencing major depression or suicidal thoughts or you know someone who is, we encourage you to reach out for help.”
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan: “The larger issue here is mental health. I certainly agree with State’s Attorney George about sending the message out to Vermonters who are struggling that there’s no shame in reaching out for help. And we need to do a better job in this state not just relying on the police to go at the acute moment to try to solve this. They’re not equipped. They don’t have the tools. That being said I don’t think anything would have changed the outcome on February 11th .”
Officials say Gregware never pointed his weapon at officers.
If you need help in Vermont, the Chittenden County State's Attorney recommends:
24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line (802-488-6400),
the Suicide Hotline (800-273-8255)
or go to your nearest emergency room