-- list as of January, 2002 --
Here is the revised list of unanswered questions posted on this website in mid January, 2002. It grew out of a list of questions posed by Jim Hoffman in a December 19th letter in the Brattleboro Reformer, and revised in list posted to the precursor to this website.
After the release of Sorrell' report and subsequent release of eyewitness evidence the unanswered questions were re-evaluated to create a new list of questions. Most of the questions here were either not addressed or were answered with an implausible theory of the shooting. See the rundown on how the report fared. This list has since been updated to create a new list.
- Why was Robert, who had no history of mental illness, did not use drugs, and was known for his calmness, equanimity, and rationality, in such great fear that morning that he decided to go before a church congregation to plead for sanctuary?
- What information were the police given prior to their arrival at the church?
- What is the content of the police/dispatcher conversations and 911 calls, and what did the autopsy reveal about the manner in which Woody was killed? Whose interests are being served by withholding this information?
- Why were three uniformed officers dispatched to the scene when church president Charles Butterfield had requested plainclothes officers?
- Once the officers arrived, was Robert given an opportunity to surrender? If so, how much time was he given?
- If Robert failed to surrender immediately, why did the officers not then negotiate with him? Eyewitness accounts are consistent that the elapsed time between the police entering the church and their firing the shots was short, under 2 minutes and perhaps much shorter.
- Why was no such negotiation attempted given that one of the officers was trained in hostage negotiation?
- How is is possible that the officers could have considered Robert, a man of 140 lbs holding a small knife toward himself, such a threat to themselves that they felt compelled to use force against him; particularly when each was standing at least 8 feet away from him, outfitted in body armor, and presumably training their 40 caliber semiautomatic weapons on him?
- If the officers were convinced they needed to subdue Robert by force why did they not use the pepper spray each was carrying, stun guns, a body tackle, warning shots, or, if necessary, a shot to his leg, instead of resorting to lethal force?
- Why was the lethal force used by the officers so overwhelming? Had the officers used only 1 or 2 rounds instead of the 7 used, his friends and family might not be facing the unbearable reality they are today.
- Why did officers continue to fire shots into Robert's body as he fell to the floor and as he lay on the floor, as many as 5 shots while he lay on the floor according to at least one eyewitness account?
- Why was one of the rounds found to have entered Woody's back, as discovered by the autopsy?
- Why were these actions resulting in the death of Robert taken by two of three experienced officers all of whom were veterans with considerable experience, including, one would presume, skill in risk assessment?
- Why was Robert handcuffed after the shooting (which had shattered bones in his right arm), and what role did that have in impeding the ability of the doctor present to administer first aid to Robert?
- Why did it take 21 minutes to move Robert from the church floor to the ambulance after the shooting, as indicated by the timeline of events, given that the ambulance was on the scene within 2 minutes of the shooting?
- Why did it take 22 minutes for the ambulance to transport Robert from the church parking lot to the Brattleboro hospital as indicated by the timeline of events when the route is about 3 miles with few impediments, including only a single traffic light.
- Why did it take two hours and 45 minutes from the time of the shooting to begin to evacuate Robert to a facility that was equipped to treat his heart trauma, when a physician on the scene had diagnosed that trauma within minutes of the shooting?
- Did any of the officers have any prior dealings with or knowledge of Robert?
- Have there been any official or unofficial reports of previous aggressive behaviors by the officers?
- Why were the officers who shot Woody returned to duty before any investigation was completed?