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Thursday, February 7, 2002

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Officers who shot Woodward are assigned to desk jobs

February 7, 2002

By SUSAN SMALLHEER

Southern Vermont Bureau

BRATTLEBORO - The two police officers who shot a Bellows Falls man to death in a Brattleboro church are no longer on street patrol and in uniform.

The two officers, Terrance Parker and Marshall Holbrook, asked to be transferred to administrative duty because of the hostility in the community, the president of the police union said Wednesday.

Holbrook and Parker remain working, according to Detective Joseph Pineau, the president of the United Brotherhood of Police Workers.

Town Manager Jerry Remillard said he agreed with the transfer, as did acting Police Chief John Martin.

?This transfer should not be construed as evidence of guilt or wrongdoing,? Remillard said. ?It seemed like a reasonable request.?

The police shooting has been the focus of intense public concern and criticism, and is under investigation by the Vermont State Police and attorney general?s office.

At a community forum last month, the most criticism about the town?s handling of the crisis dealt with the decision to put Parker and Holbrook back on the beat before the investigation was completed.

The two officers have been very upset about the shooting, Pineau said, but have been frustrated since they can?t tell their side of what happened at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church on Dec. 2.

Robert ?Woody? Woodward, 37, was shot a total of seven times by the two officers after he went to the church in a highly agitated state and threatened to kill himself. A third officer who responded to the church never fired his weapon.

Holbrook and Parker were placed on leave immediately after the shooting, but they returned to uniform duty about 10 days later. While they were put back on patrol, in uniform and armed, they were always in the company of another officer.

But Pineau said that while the two officers hadn?t encountered hostility while actually doing their job, the community reaction, in particular letters to the editor about the shooting, was putting a lot of pressure on them.

?Some of the letters are really beginning to bother them,? he said. ?They don?t have an outlet to defend themselves. It?s tough on these guys. They?re both fathers, parents. They have to go home and deal with their kids,? he said.

?It?s a terrible tragedy and they feel very, very badly about it,? Pineau said. ?They felt they had to react the way they did.?

The two officers received mandatory counseling after the shooting, and they have a standing offer for such help, Pineau said.

Holbrook, in fact, is working on the investigation into the suspicious death of a New Hampshire man in Brattleboro over the weekend, Pineau said.

Remillard said that the police officers had been the subject of threats shortly after the Dec. 2 incident. Threats were written in marker in a downstairs bathroom in the Brattleboro municipal center and in the stairway near the police department.

?The union is concerned about their safety,? the union president said. ?They were feeling increased pressure out on the street. In an effort to reduce the pressure, we decided to bring them inside.?

When they go back out on patrol, he said, will be determined later.

Contact Susan Smallheer at susan.smallheer@rutlandherald.com.


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