MIDDLEBURY — It was indeed police gunfire — and not a self-inflicted wound — that caused the death of George Demarais, a 57-year-old Middlebury man who on Thursday, Oct. 4, allegedly challenged authorities to take his life.
Middlebury police Chief Tom Hanley confirmed on Monday that Demarais had sustained two bullet wounds, one each to the chest and neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene following what had been a 30- to 40-minute gunfight in the woods behind his home at 5454 Case St. (Route 116).
It was at noon last Thursday that Demarais, who lived alone in the home, called Middlebury police to say that he “wanted to die via suicide by cop,” and that he would be in the woods 150 yards behind his home. Middlebury police quickly mobilized to the scene and found what appeared to be a will taped to his door and a note taped to his vehicle that read, “Come and get me, I hope you can shoot straight because I can.”
Demarais eventually exited his home with a rifle and proceeded into the woods behind his property, ignoring police commands to stop and drop his weapon, according to authorities. He went to a crude bunker he had fashioned with logs and boulders and began firing at police at around 6:15 p.m., according to Hanley.
Eight members of the Middlebury police force responded to the call. Officers involved in the incident were offered counseling and placed on administrative duties pending an investigation of the incident by Vermont State Police. Hanley said four officers were in the line of fire and two participated in the actual firefight.
Demarais was described by neighbors as someone who kept to himself. He had recently received some bad news in the form of a letter from the town of Middlebury notifying him he needed to pay an outstanding property tax bill of $7,817.71 by Oct. 7 or face losing his property.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.