Robert Woodward, "Woody", my dearly beloved friend, entered a rural Vermont church on Sunday morning, December 2 2001, and pleaded to the assembled congregation to give him asylum, explaining that government authorities sought to torture and kill him. Within 15 minutes police stormed into the church and almost immediately opened fire. Accounts vary as to whether Woody was given any chance to surrender. Two officers fired at least seven 40 caliber rounds at Woody, several of which entered his torso, then handcuffed him while he lay bleeding on the floor. Woody died less than four hours later of his wounds.
Woody was the gentlest of people who never even raised his voice in anger, much less ever hurt anyone. He refused to kill any animal except in self defense, such as a biting mosquito. He was a vegan, a practicing Buddhist, a social worker who worked with children and the needy, and an activist for social and environmental justice. Woody had never had a run-in with the law. He was 37.
Many press reports misportrayed the event by describing Woody as a knife wielding or armed man, implying or stating that he threatened the congregation. In fact Woody produced a small pocket knife several minutes after he entered the church and pointed it at himself in an attempt to dissuade the congregation from leaving, pleading that he needed witnesses. Woody never threatened anyone but himself with the knife, or with his body. Given that, we have numerous questions about his brutal killing, and demand a credible official response to it.
As a friend of Woody I seek justice. I seek justice under the law so that those responsible will be held accountable. And I seek justice in the telling of the truth about the life and work of Woody, who touched so many with his kindness.