Vermont Police refuse to release officer shooting footage

The New England First Amendment Coalition is calling on Vermont law enforcement to release body camera footage from last Friday's officer-involved shooting in Winooski.

The Vermont State Police said a sheriff's deputy from Franklin County shot Jesse Beshaw, 29, six times, and grazed him with a seventh shot. Beshaw was unarmed, but Winooski police said Beshaw was advancing on Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Palmier with an arm behind his back.

Palmier, 31, was wearing a body camera, investigators have said.

The state police have denied a Burlington Free Press request for the footage on grounds that the recordings are part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The Free Press is appealing the denial.

The New England First Amendment Coalition, a group that works to advance public access to government, is urging law enforcement to release the footage as quickly as possible.

“As more officers throughout the region begin using body and dash cams, it’s necessary for police departments to set a standard of transparency and trust,” said the group's executive director, Justin Silverman, in a statement Tuesday.

The withholding of the Winooski footage is in contrast to the handling of similar cases in other states.

In Oklahoma, police have released footage that shows the events leading to the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher. Crutcher, 40, was shot on the same day as Beshaw. Tulsa police have announced he was unarmed. An investigation is continuing.

In Vermont, Burlington police waited to release body-camera footage for about two months after the March shooting of Ralph "Phil" Grenon, 76, in his downtown apartment. Grenon was suffering from mental illness and was shot by a policeman after he charged at officers with two knives.

The footage was released in May, after the investigation concluded.

In January, the police released body camera footage from a December drug raid in Burlington's Old North End in which the Vermont State Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency shot and killed the target of a warrant, Kenneth Stephens, after they say he pointed a muzzleloader rifle at them.

Contributing: Elizabeth Murray of the Free Press, and The Associated Press. 

KGW


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