|COURTESY OF JOHN PETTIT/ DEANFORAMERICA.COM
|Top: Howard Dean Below: Robert "Woody"
|COURTESY OF JUSTICE FOR WOODY
years after the fatal shooting of Robert "Woody" Woodward by two
Brattleboro police officers, several alarming questions about the
incident and subsequent investigation remain unresolved. On Dec. 2, the
second anniversary of Woodward's death, a group of friends and
concerned citizens will hold a silent march in Brattleboro, not only to
honor Woodward's memory, but to draw public attention to charges the
group has leveled at the shooters, the state Attorney General who
exonerated police of wrongdoing, and presidential candidate and former
Vermont governor Howard Dean.
Woodward was shot on Dec. 2, 2001,
while seeking political sanctuary at All Soul's Church in Brattleboro
during a Sunday morning service. After being called to the scene by a
member of the congregation, police officers Marshall Holbrook and
Terrance Parker encountered a distraught but docile Woodward, who had
threatened to take his own life with a pocket knife. He was otherwise
Holbrook and Parker fired and hit Woodward seven times. While
the officers later claimed that they fired because Woodward suddenly
lunged at them -- an account that Vermont AG William Sorrell used to
exonerate them -- only one of the 18 eyewitnesses to the shooting even
vaguely corroborated the police version of events. (For a detailed
review of the case as well as Sorell's official report, go to
The Dec. 2 march, which begins at noon at the Brattleboro Food
Co-op, is organized by Justice for Woody, a group founded in the
aftermath of the shooting. Keith Carlson, a founding member of JFW and
a close friend of Woodward's, said the march will have a "respectful,
civil" tone -- "This won't be an angry event," he said -- but it will,
he hopes, "bring attention to the charges we are making."
Those charges include accusations that Sorrell and Dean
conspired to help cover up gross misconduct by police, who, the group
alleges, shot Woodward without justification and subsequently
prevented him from getting prompt medical treatment. According to
eyewitness accounts, a medical doctor on the scene begged police to
allow her to tend to Woodward, who was lying handcuffed in a pool of
his own blood, but she was repeatedly rebuffed. Woodward died in a New
Hampshire hospital about three hours after the shooting.
Though AG Sorrell's official report was widely criticized upon
its release, Howard Dean, who was governor of Vermont at the time,
refused to appoint an independent investigator, stating that he was
"comfortable" with Sorrell's findings. Sorrell and Dean are longtime
friends and close political allies.
A civil lawsuit filed by Woodward's family against the town of Brattleboro is pending.
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