MIDDLEBURY — State and county prosecutors have cleared two Middlebury police offices of wrongdoing in the shooting death of a man during an armed standoff on Case Street in Middlebury last Oct. 4.
Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster and Attorney General William Sorrell announced on Friday that they had completed separate, independent reviews of the shooting of George Demarais.
Both offices concluded, as a matter of law, that Middlebury police Sgt. Jason Covey and Patrolman Kevin Emilio were legally justified in the use of deadly force when they discharged their firearms at Demarais. 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 began when Demarais, living at 5454 Case St. in Middlebury, called 911 at around noon on Oct. 4, 2012, and stated that he intended to commit “suicide by cop.” He did not answer repeated telephone calls to his home, and when police responded to his home, he did not answer the door. Eight members of the Middlebury police force responded to the call.
Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley said after the incident that his officers 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 was then seen walking out of his house carrying a long gun. Hanley said he went to a crude bunker he had fashioned with logs and boulders. Demarais refused to communicate with the police. Four Middlebury police officers attempted to set up a perimeter around the house by entering the woods behind it and other first responders closed off Case Street/Route 116 in both directions.
Two of the officers, Emilio and Covey, made verbal contact with Demarais. Police said Covey ordered him to show his hands, and, at around 6:15 p.m., Demarais fired a weapon at Covey. Both officers returned fire, and Demarais was fatally wounded.
An autopsy determined that the cause of death was two gunshot wounds, one to the neck and the other to the chest. The autopsy toxicology report showed no alcohol or drugs other than caffeine, cotinine (a metabolite of nicotine), and nicotine in Demarais’ body.
A press release from the Attorney General’s office said that subsequent investigation revealed that Demarais had been treated for several years for depression, and had made suicidal and threatening statements in the past. He had been unemployed for two years, except for a brief job that had recently ended, and was facing the imminent forced tax sale of his home. Demarais left several notes indicating his intention to provoke the police into shooting him.
“Under the facts of this case, the Addison County State’s Attorney and the Attorney General’s Office concluded that Sgt. Covey and Patrolman Emilio were reasonable in their belief that they were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when they fired at Demarais,” the press release said. “Given the serious threat, the officers’ response of using deadly force was reasonable and justified.
The investigation of the shooting was conducted by the Vermont State Police.