Blaming the Victim
Apologists do Violence to Woody's Memory
The brutal killing of Woody was a shock and insult to the friends and family of Woody that would be hard to fathom without knowing firsthand what a uniquely gentle, caring, and giving person he was. As if the theft of Woody from all of us weren't cruel enough, to it has been a series of insults, coming from several quarters. Some have come from local and state, government officials, including the Brattleboro Police Department, Chief Martin, and individual members, the Vermont State Police, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, and Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Others have come from the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Church, not to be confused with the local congregation, many members of which have acted in ways that are heroic. Still others have come from portions of the media.
Insults(*) emanating from government officials started with the shooting itself. They include:
- The entirely needless use of deadly force against Woody, who never threatened anyone but himself.
- The handcuffing of Woody's arms after he was shot, given that his right arm had been shattered by bullets.
- The words of one of the policemen after the shooting: "is everyone ok", implying that Woody was no-one. These words can be herd on the message tape.
- The officers' rejection of repeated requests by a physician present that the handcuffs be removed so she could treat his wounds.
- An officer's initial rejection of an EMT's request to remove the handcuffs, several minutes after the shooting with the reason that the suspect hadn't been searched yet.
- The long delays in getting Woody appropriate medical care.
- The searching of Woody's apartment by Vermont State Police as if he were the one who had committed a crime. (Woody's killers were subject to no such indignity.)
- The December 3rd State Police press release after the shooting which concluded Woody made threatening movements, and the shooters perceived a threat, thereby prejudging the key issue of the investigation on its second day.
- The refusal of authorities to return the Woody's body to his family.
- The return to active duty of Woody's killers just 10 days after the shooting, and before the funeral services for Woody were even complete. Adding to the insult was Martin's announcing that they had returned to the streets the day after the fact.
- The refusal of officials to release any information in their possession to the public, such as the 911 call transcripts, police radio transcripts, autopsy results, or witness statements, after the little bit of information Martin provided on December 13th.
- The pretense maintained by Dan Davis for two months that he was capable of heading a fair investigation of the shooting, given his advocacy for the shooters following the shooting and other obvious conflicts of interest.
- The statement by Attorney General Sorrel of legislation proposed by Windham County legislators to address issues raised by the shooting that, "It sounds like it's fixing something that isn't broken".
- The refusal by the Attorney General's office to release to Woody's family any details about the shooting even under the condition that family members sign sworn statements to keep such information confidential.
- The fact that killer Terrance Parker has continued to work, apparently on armed duty, at the Vernon nuclear plant, even after the public was led to believe that he was confined to desk duty.
- The many insults of William Sorrell's report.
- The statement by Senator Leahy promulgating the misrepresentations of Sorrell's report.
Insults(*) from individuals not in a government capacity include:
- Several unattributed quotes including: "He yelled at people to memorize them. 'Memorize these!'", of the slips of paper Woody handed out, "This guy was not peaceful. He was traumatizing us." and "They were doing their job, that's all I know. They were protecting us." of the police shooting.
- The 'rededication ceremony' held by Mero, in which she implied that Woody either was or embodied a daemon like those in the Harry Potter books.
- The refusal by any leaders of the local church or the national Unitarian Universalist organization to condemn the shooting.
- The Article in the U.U. World Magazine which contains numerous omissions and distortions, seemingly calculated to deny Woody's value as a human being.
- Letters to the Reformer by former police officers Joseph W. Pineau and Wayne D. Rowell, in which they make the outrageous comparison of Woody to the 9/11 hijackers.
- Letter to the Reformer by former selectboard chair Bob Fagelson.
* This compilation of insults represents the view of the author, who does not presume to speak for Woody's family, nor all of his friends.