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Town Forum Transcript

The January 20th Brattleboro Town Forum gave many people, both local residents and friends of Woody from different states, an opportunity to speak to several issues surrounding the killing. A virtual consensus emerged around the demand that the shooting officers be taken off of active duty until the investigation was complete. Here is a partial transcript. Missing are most of the words of the moderators, and the longer speaches given by town officials. Herein is important testimony about the shooting by J.B.C. Thomas also excerpted here.

Steven Tomczak
Hi, let me introduce myself My name is Steven Monroe Tomczak. I am both a long-time friend of Robert Woodward, and also a spokesperson for an organization called Justice for Woody has formed recent and taken an ad out in the Brattleboro Reformer. Obviously I am here because of a deep personal loss I feel as a result of what happened in the All Souls Church that day. Obviously I also have a great deal of concern about what occurred, the procedures that were followed, what appears to be based on our perception from what information is avail a potential case of excessive force and a situation that in my view did not need to happen based on what I know. I also want to say and if I have the time to say it the loss -- if you've never had a very good friend killed, it is a profound loss and I think people need to know that, but for now, what were trying to do is advocate for a fair, and just, and open investigation and decision to prosecute or not to prosecute there is no debate between any faction of group whether Marshall Holbrook and Terrance Parker killed Woody. No one debates that. The question is as to whether it was appropriate. Based on what I know I think it was extremely inappropriate.
Keith Carlson
Good afternoon, my name is Kieth Carlson. Woody was a very very good friend of mine and of my Wife and of my 18 year old son. I'll just say that for now. I've been out of the country so I'm jumping back into the fray more quickly than I expected to. There's so many things I could say which so many people have said before so I'm going to refrain. I actually have two questions, and the questions are directed toward 2 specific people, and I hope that's OK in this forum. The first question is for Dan Davis, I wanted to acknowledge that Dan Davis decided to removed himself from this investigation; my question is why it took so long for him to remove himself from the investigation. I'd like an answer to that question today. The other question I have is for John Martin, thank yo for being here. My question is this I'll precede it with a statement. One is that I'm a nurse. As a nurse I know that if I was involved in an incident where one of my patients died under questionable circumstances, my license would be revoked and I would be removed from the ability to serve as a nurse until the time that that investigation and everything connected with that investigation was completed, and I would not be able to treat medically or otherwise -- any patient would not be able to be under my care. So my question is, when two police officers are involved in a circumstance where they have killed someone under questionable circumstances, why are they allowed to return to work in less then 2 weeks? I think that is an incredibly insensitive and unconscionable action on the part of the Brattleboro Police.
Dan Covino
My name is Dan Conino, and I've been a very long time friend of Woody's, since the the first year of high school. I guess everybody can say that they've had alot of friends throughout their life, but you can probably count on your hand the ones that are the closest to you. Woody was certainly one of them. so it's a great loss for me too. We always kept in very close contact, and everything else. The entire time unflinchingly he has been very focused and very sane and very cause oriented, and right up to the last time that we all saw him Thanksgiving weekend, we ended up playing some pool that night, we closed down the bar, (Woody didn't drink or anything that's just the way he was), but we had about a 45 minute lengthy intense discussion about political events since 9/11 and all of that. Woody was as composed as ever, never making any statements that we should take a stand that we should do something radical, just the way he's always been. And we never saw him again after that. Right up to the very end he was always himself. A question I would have is, and I don't know how far it's going to go into an investigation, perhaps of what drove him to the church in the first place. I don't know how far that's going to go, but I would like to get some answers to that one day.
Emily Payton
My name is Emily Payton and I did not know Woody. I did not meet him when hew was alive but I have come to learn of him deeply as he has passed on. And I think even in his passing he can do a great service to his community. I am here today and right now because I want the community to be very scrupulous, and to not underestimate the level of corruption that is in Brattleboro. There are good people, but I personally have had experiences where I have seen transcripts altered, and people bribed, and I want you all to stay as vigilant as you have been and to make sure that these proceedings are as open and as unsecret as can be, and what really concerns me is to see that the officers are back on duty as if nothing has happened. That to me is the first sign of coverup trying to happen, and I thank god that it happened in a place that there were so many witnesses that there cannot be a coverup. The way the paper has published so much of what has gone on - I think that's excellent. And I would like to see that the police department respect the fact that the people of Brattleboro cannot feel safe with those two having guns and patrolling the streets. I would like them to say that their job is to make us feel safe. how can we feel safe if we question two police officers' actions as they should be questioned. thank-you.
Terry Martin
My name is Terry Martin. I'm a long-time resident of the town of Brattleboro. My background is as public information officer for a large agency in this state for last about 7 and a half years. I sat back and read all the editorials. I watched movies in depth seeking myself for truth in all of this. And I sat down in dictionary and looked up polarity. [definition omitted] And I see this meeting today as being one of not having the polarity but bringing us together as a community and that's why I'm here today. And looking down through some of the articles, I kind of come up, put some of the words together and said, what you coulda shoulda done you might not do. It's kind of a play on words, but it's history now. Said this should never have happed but it did. Woody should have ran to his family and friends but he didn't. Woody should have gone to a church for sanctuary and he did. He should have done it in a peaceful manner but he didn't. The immediate initial press release should have come out of police department as leadership but it didn't. There should have been a great outcry initially and there was. People should have backed off on all the editorials but they didn't. The silent majority should have spoken up, but they didn't. Witnesses should have kept their confidence and they didn't. The Brattleboro Reformer should have refused, as their policy states, not to publish letters that are demeaning, but they didn't. In closing we've had a system that stood for 225 years of dealing with situations in the justice system to bring out the facts of an investigation, and I just think the community should, when you walk out this door today you should decide to follow that system, to wait until you have answers, to wait until you've seen and heard the forensics, the evidence that will come, and everything else before we publish everything in the paper. Brattleboro is a great community and if we're to bring it together it needs to start today when we walk out that door. and there needs to be full tolerance for eachother some of those think its OK to be intolerant of those who are not tolerant of them, and that's not tolerance in it's full definition.
Sunny Miller
My name is Sunny Miller, I live in Deerfield MA. I dance often at dance spree where Woody danced, and I only recognized him by photograph -- I said oh I did know who that was. I'm here today because I believe our whole culture is facing a crisis in terms of our willingness to look violence in the eye, to meet it to understand it, and see that we are part of this culture, creating a death rate 12 children per day in the United States by gun violence. And in the past few years we've seen the violence of the cities and the ghettos has moved to suburbs and to the Caucasian communities of European descent, and rightfully now we are becoming alarmed. Let us embrace this alarm with wide open eyes. And perhaps we can learn something from South Africa. The truth and reconciliation process in South Africa, as I understand, hopes for complete reevaluation and admission of every wrongdoing by hearing whether authorities in power did something wrong, whether federal agents drugged Woody and caused this seeming craziness that people observed. Whatever in the world might have happened, if we are willing to open our eyes and see it, and think what is the best we can do now we have hope. Because thousands of people are dying in the world today, our nation exports more weapons than any other nation on earth. We have to look ourselves in the eye and see what the root of booth Woody's death is, and the roots of all violence. They are in all of us, and together let us face them.
Eva Wilson
I'm Eva Wilson I live in West Chesterfield. I did not know Woody, I do not know the 2 police officers, nor do I attend All Souls Church. However I have talked to a person at great length who was a witness to the shooting and obviously Mr. Woodward was scared to death and in fearful for his life. And I often wonder what was said in the calls to the police department because from my reports the policemen also appeared scared to death and fearful for their lives when they came in. So it makes me wonder what was in the calls to them. Recently I was in Rochester NY, and I noticed a piece in the paper where this man was armed with a rifle and a shotgun and threatened to shoot any police officer who went there They did go there, the gun was fired at the policemen and luckily it missed. They subdued him and took him into custody. And I just wondered what is the difference in their training and the reaction to this situation which certainly sounds much more ominous than the one at All Souls Church.
Jack Riely
Hello, my name is Jack Riely and I live in Brattleboro. I've got a couple questions I would like to pose to acting Chief Martin and town manager Jery Remillard in particular. I believe both you gentlemen publicly stated shortly after the tragedy and were so quoted in a number of papers that police officers acted according to procedure in their actions in the tragedy. I'd like to know from each of you if you still hold that position, because I think it's very key if were going to have a process of bridging this thing, are we willing to look at things again in the view of this extraordinary piling mountain of questions which have been asked. At the same time I think it's important for us to know as a community about those 2 police officers: are they today carrying weapons and carrying out the duties that they did before this incident occurred? We were told that they were going to have sort of a bridged period back into that, sort of clerking duties and working with other officers. So I think it's important for us to know that. And finally, as to the question which the lady next to me asked, it is time really for us to hear the 911 tapes. We desperately need to hear, all of us, what was said. And there should really be, I think, an accounting to the community. It's startling on a Sunday afternoon, the day of the ski jump, that we see such a packed hall of people here. I think we better get with the consequences, that is that people want answers. We need answers. It's not just Brattleboro but all of Vermont, and the reputation that's been built up over generations is suffering because of the unanswered questions about this. Thank-you very much.
Joanne Brazil
My name is Joanne Brazil, I come as a citizen. I never met Mr. Woodward. I'm also here as a voter. I'm also here as someone who had a brother in law who was murdered about a year ago in Boston, and it felt like, to me, that there was more reaction to Sam Grovino being murdered, not to go into that whole thing, but he had alot of enemies, and he had been imprisoned for a long time, and he was a crooked roofer. But the upset and the reaction was very strong when Sam was murdered. We've had a strong reaction here, but I haven't felt like we've had a strong reaction from leadership. So I'm here as a voter and I'm looking to see particularly with the select-board -- we get to vote for you, and I'm not voting for anybody next time who wasn't in this room today. thank-you.
Jim Herrick
My name is Jim Herrick, and I live in the next town over Marlboro, Vermont, I'm here as a citizen who is very concerned about what's happening in our society with the division between those of us who are going about our daily jobs and are basically dis-empowered from the authority figures that police us. I think that there needs to be a strong connection between what the purpose for policing is articulated as and what the actions brought about by the police actually are. I try to imagine what kind of training could make two men so callous and so hardened to what they have done, even if it was an accident or whatever it wished to be called, so they could go back into the arena carrying their guns and prepared for another scenario that might be a replication of it the next day. I work running heavy equipment and drive pieces of equipment that could, if used wrong, kill someone who works with me very easily. I've always been very nervous I was going to hurt someone, and try to imagine what I would do the next day, how I would deal with it, and the one thing I could clearly see is that I could not go back to doing what I was doing even though it might be a total accident. The sense I got from the St. Michael's Church Memorial, the outpouring of pain from Woody's friends and the people that were there, all that was a tremendous weight I was able to clearly see would be loaded on my mind had I been responsible for such an action. All I can try to understand is that the training of the police must be such that this type of action is acceptable, what they're prepared to do, and fits into their agenda. I don't accept that, I don't think we should. Its a very scary concept to think about what is out there I haven't heard anything articulated that makes me think there might be improvement in the future. thank-you.
John Riely
Sorry I just wanted to do a little PS. We've got good police officers in this town as well, let's not forget it, and they need the support, the trust, and the backing of this community. And I'm concerned for those good police officers. I think that all of us here should be, because you can't have a town without having people who can support and trust those who are dedicated to protecting and serving. So all the things I have said and others have here today I think go doubly true for the need to reestablish trust in the police officers in our tow That's why its important that the questions which this panel, and there may be many other panels today I don't know, really be answered and answered forthrightly and candidly because we've got to have a town go on. We don't have that at this point. No police department ever functions well without the trust of the people, and that goes around the world whether you look at [..] or Juliani's New York or whatever. it's just a fact of life. We live in a town where there has been a horrible tragedy. A number of us have posed questions which we hope were going to be answered today. and I think some of these questions and the investigation will lead, all of it, to allowing the town to again have trust in the police, a trust which has been for many people in this town, lifted since this tragedy.
Terry Martin
Picking up my coulda shoulda woulda mighta done. The Reformer should have refused as their policy states not to print letters that demean, but they didn't and that's on both sides of the editorials I read. Those who were far removed from from the facts of the case and unknowing should have withheld comment, but they didn't. The Brattleboro Reformer should have presented the sides in a more balanced fashion but they didn't. People should have waited for the facts of the case to come to real evidence, forensics and real evidence before they spewed spontaneous utterances, but they didn't. People should have had more true tolerance but they didn't. It's OK to be intolerant to those who are not Some should have been more sensitive to Woody and the police officers involved, but.th they weren't We should have let the system work but we didn't. and thank-you for letting me finish that.

Can we start right now to give support for law enforcement. I wonder if we could start right now with a round of applause of the law enforcement.

Scott
My name is Scott from Guilford. I put together a video tape that you might be able to see on VCTV cable access channel 8. It's already aired last night and it basically shows scenes of police brutality and police working with the military across the country. This Woodward shooting is indicative of a growing problem across the country, and I'd like to ask a couple questions regarding this case. Regarding the rumors I've heard from people who supposedly knew of one of the officers (I won't name which one) that there may have been some aggression problems with that officer in the past, that people who knew him were not surprised that he would be a little too trigger happy, and that there was supposedly an incident at a shooting range where rubber bullets were being practiced with, and allegedly this officer shot a fellow colleague officer with what he thought was a rubber bullet that turned out to be real. I would like to know if there is any proof of that or if it's just a rumor the it's just a rumor, but if its true what everyone has been saying, what I've heard, it could be indicative of a problem where a person like that, as I said before, perhaps shouldn't be in a position to have a gun and to judge whether he should use lethal force on someone. And I would like to encourage people to call for a grand jury. A grand jury would be able to call for indictments of the officers. A civilian review board would not, and objectively would not have any real power.
Lou
my name is Lou and I live in Brattleboro. I have a comment and some questions. I remember a woman was speaking here first mentioned instances of police being fired upon and not responding. Both I in a letter I wrote and Marty Jeezer in his column mentioned this incident in Brattleboro in which the police were fired upon and did not return fire. I think the police should be praised when they act in ways like that and also criticized when they don't act in ways they should. The questions I have, and I could put this to Woody's friends and also people who may know of him, and it's been a question in my mind, is, I don't know if this will ever be answered, but I would be very interested to know if anyone knows what happened to Robert Woodward between the night before his appearance at the West Village Meeting House and the time of that appearance, because something obviously happened in those 12-18 hours, and I don't know if it will ever come out. The other thing about the police -- I noticed that one of the police officers who is supposed to be the most experienced did not draw his weapon, and I think he should be questioned as to why he saw fit not to draw his weapon let alone fire. I know the police are trained in ways of disarming people or of talking them down. This was not done. I'd be interested in knowing why that wasn't. In my dealings with police over the years, if I'm being stopped on the road, I have learned to put both hands so they can be seen on the steering column and always to be civil toward them. I think if you take a disarming attitude toward anyone, including the police, they are less likely to get angry. But as to what happened here it happened so quickly that I think the questions have to be raised and answered. And also I do feel there has to be a civilian review panel established. And there has to be accountability. If people are going to be public servants, they have to be public with the last word emphasized on servants. To serve and protect, they have to serve as well as protect.
Ellen Kane
I'm Ellen Kane from Brattleboro. I really appreciated people bringing out the questions that we've all been thinking about. For me I'm thinking about violence in general, that I feel like we live in a society where violence is the answer to everything. I think that a situation like this is a wonderful horrible opportunity to embrace non-violence and to think that we don't have the choice anymore to keep killing and hurting and bombing people that we feel uneasy about or afraid of or whatever it is. When I heard about the situation and what happened that morning the first thing I thought was why didn't those police say to themselves the first thing when they walked in there "we have all the time in the world" There is no reason to hurry. This guy's got a knife, he's not got it against anyone else, he's not holding a hostage; slow it down. And anybody's who ever practiced non-violence, whose who's done a non-violence training, understands the first thing you do in scary situation is diffuse and slow it down. What if the police were actually models of that for all of us instead of the opposite. I have some cynical ideas about what that might not happen but I'd love to see us take steps in that direction. Also I have serious issues about punitive justice. What I want to happen here is I want the truth to come out; I want responsibility to be taken; I want the people who did this hear the pain of the people who were affected by it, and really take it in. In my life that's the only way that healing has ever happened and probably ever will happen. It's not from sending someone to jail, or the death penalty, all the ways that we think make things better. I don't think it makes anything better. I think a real apology and a real heartfelt understanding of what one has done wrong and both sides hearing eachother is the only we we move forward with this. I for my self wold not advocate packing anybody off to jail. I think jail is a place where people get more hurt and want to hurt more. I would love to see Brattleboro be an example for this country in how to do true restorative justice, and become a healthy community as a result of something so horrible as this.
J.B.C. Thomas
I am Tom Thomas, I am a member of All Souls Church. I was a witness to the shooting, of the about 15 to 20 people who remained in the church and witnessed it. My general feeling is that there were a series of mistakes, of misinterpretations. What I'm hoping will come out of meetings like this is that people will be able to understand what happened and why these errors and why these mistakes were made. In order to understand that we have to try to understand what motivated, what was in the minds of the police officers at the time they shot, took out their guns, what was in the mind of Woody, what was in the minds of the rest of us. And part of what's in the minds of all of us, of course, is the culture which we have adopted. This is a multicultural community. The police have their culture. Woody belonged to a completely different culture. The members of the church have their belief system. And it's when these intersect that you get these misunderstandings, that you get this type of problem. It was evident that not only was Woody completely paralyzed with fear, when he came into the church I was probably the first one who talked to him, and suggested that he come into an office so that we could talk about his request for sanctuary, and because he didn't know me he backed away and said he didn't know me, and who was I? We did have some members of the church who were subsequently able to talk him into sitting down and putting away his knife and then the police entered. The policemen probably had good reason to fear as he lowered his knife -- they asked him to lower his knife -- he lowered his knife and took a step forward -- they probably had good reason to fear that they were being attacked -- and therefore they reacted instinctively; they reacted perhaps as they had been trained, that if you are going to be attacked, you shoot. And I think if we can understand those things, and incidentally I feel very very sorry for those two policemen, I think this will affect them for the rest of their lives. And just to finish up, I hope that we as a community will be able to get the information we that we need -- there is a legal culture that says oh no we have to keep all the information in order to make a case, because we have to enter battle in the courtroom, so there is that theory that this is the best way to see that justice comes about. I don't agree with it. I think that it's more important for the community to be getting this information so we can process it and we can begin to understand what happened and hopefully in the future we can see that the training of the police is such that this type of thing never happens again.
Gary Sacks
My name in Gary Sacks, I'm a Brattleboro resident, and a fairly new Brattleboro resident of 3 months. As Tom speaks to, I'm also aware of having spoken with some other witnesses at the church that day. I'm aware the pain of those witnesses is nearly as great as the pain of Woody's close friends, for people who have lived through that experience. Some of the questions I have are more logistical. I believe a big mistake occurred that day. I believe the amount of information coming through the town and from the town regarding that day, December second, has to do with that people are feeling guilty and shame. Perhaps by the police department, and select-board or town fathers. I'm aware that one of the ways that shame can be worked with as individuals it to expose that which is shameful. So I'm hoping that we as a town and as a community can use this opportunity to really expose every piece of data about what occurred so that we all, not just the police record but public record, can know what occurred and why it occurred, and if actions were taken wrongly on the part of the police officers, we as a community, its our job to show them compassion. It's not about polarity. I wouldn't want to be a police officer in this or any other town. And, I believe it never should have happened that day. I think that we in this community have an opportunity to be a part of this investigation, to ask that this investigation be a certain way as a model to the country. And just as this country had an opportunity prior to October 7th to show up as a models to the world, I think right now this town has an opportunity to show up as model to the country in regard to how do we respond in the face of an event, how do we respond from a place of being upright and responsible.
Sheryl Cantor
I'm Sheryl Cantor. I live in Putney. I didn't know Woody, and I wasn't at the church. I read about it in the newspaper, and what I read was really scary. Somebody came into a church and didn't seem to be threatening anybody and he was shot dead. Yikes, that's really scary. But what upset me almost -- I wouldn't say more, but almost as much -- there was no response to reassure the community after such a frightening thing happened. After a really brief period of time, of two weeks or maybe a little less for one of the officers, they were put back on active duty. That's so disrespectful to the community and to the community's feelings of fear. Where's the leadership in this community? Where are the town officials reassuring the community that it's going to be investigated very thoroughly? These things aren't good. And if something bad happened we're going to find out and we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again. There was no leadership. The response was sort of half asleep. The acting police chief didn't want to share information. The whole thing made me feel as a community member disrespected, and not served by the people who are supposed to be public servants. Aren't we paying them with our tax dollars? Didn't we put them there to serve and protect? Why aren't they going to bat for us? Why aren't they protecting us?

[moderator question about what would make speaker reassured]

My model was Rudolf Juliani in New York City. There was nobody in Brattleboro who stepped up and said we're going to make sure that there is an independent investigation. We don't know what happened that day. We can't know for sure without an investigation but we're going to make sure the investigation is objective and thorough, and the public is going to know everything and don't worry. Nobody has said that. And the message, the inference, in having the officers being put back on the street so quickly is just all the wrong message. That's not reassuring. I don't want those guys on the street. Maybe they acted appropriately, maybe they didn't. There hasn't been a trial. I don't have alot of information. There's alot of things I don't know, but until we know, they shouldn't be on active duty. I'm appalled and I'm scared.
Mary Rieves
Hi my name is Mary Rieves and I'm from Amherst Massachusetts. Many of you probably recognize my name I've been interviewed alot by many of you press folks. Woody was a very dear beloved member of my family. For 15 years he helped raise Keith and my son, and is responsible for the wonderful person that my 18 year old is, the young man that he is. Woody had someone in the church whom I haven't met yet call our home right before he was shot and killed. And when he .. when that call was made as many of you also know the call was recored and apparently while the outgoing message was talking the shots were fired. because as soon was you hear the recording you hear is agonizing calls and his love that came out. not his hatred, not his anger, not any revenge, not any rage, but his love. He went out of this world with love in his heart. And we miss him so much.

[pause]

There are two words I want to say to all today. My message is about courage and intelligence. There were people who played out this drama who exercised courage the people who had the courage to stay in that sanctuary with him and I thank you with all my heart. One question I do have, and I speak as a social worker of many many years, you don't say put away the knife, you say "give me the knife." The police could have done that. Any one of us professionals in this room could have done that. But nobody did, that was one of the mistakes made that day. Now we all have the courage to be here today, and I beg of people who are holding silence to have the courage, realizing the intelligence, of coming forward now. We've been doing it we're pretty well seasoned by now.

[pause]

I'll close with a little story. While I was challenged to the fullest extent of being here on the planet, the first week, wheeling and shucking grief, I needed to make some kind of sense, I needed to make some semblance of safety in my community in Amherst. I went to the police chief of my town I sat down with him and said I just want to know what your procedure is. This is what I've been infirmed that the Brattleboro police procedure is. what would you do? And Chief Sherpa, told me that the procedure in Amherst is that with a man with a knife, not a gun, there is time to negotiate. And just like Ellen said the police chief told me you take all the time in the world. The first thing you do is clear the room of the people. Did the police do that? There were 18 people in the room when they opened fire. Is that what you say is defendable police procedure? Is that what helps build trust in the force? Please, please, tell us what your procedure is. If you believe in this procedure then you have a real big problem. And two, he told me that then you negotiate, you take as long as you need. And three, you use other forms of force to restrain the person. And four, if your life is obviously at stake, or someone else's, then you use lethal force. I wonder about the procedure that goes to step four first.
Tova
My name's Tova, and I heard the tape on Mary's machine. My son's best friends with her son. Mary thought it was my son who was screaming, because my son is bipolar and was in the hospital at the time. You know what my thought was? Thank God my son was in the hospital because if he had an episode and he was on the streets, at least in Brattleboro, he could get murdered, and at the time time the hospital was taking a very long time about discharging my son. My son was climbing the walls, he wanted to get outside, honey you don't understand, it's a different would out there now. I want to say a couple of things about the police. You know there's a saying, the meaning of a communication is the response it gets. Whether the police realize it or not the meaning of their communication, starting with Woody and continuing today with having those policemen on the street, is one of incredible intimidation. And speaking of the hippie generation which I still love, my definition of a hippie being human being, I wish I could have a one-to-one talk with the officers who shot Woody and say "what freaked you out so bad," and hear the officers go "Oh man I just lost it after 911, all I could think of was knife and destruction and I just lost it." and I go "there was something going on that people don't know about and and I was afraid" because I heard the eyewitnesses and they said they never saw anyone so frightened. What on earth was that policeman so frightened of? And why is the one person that had something to say about what happened the night before not talking? And why did the officers shoot Woody when he was -- I suppose hearsay came from 2 or 3 people who saw the shooting -- They said that the police officers stood over Woody one of them stood over Woody as he was lying on the floor in a fetal position and fired five to seven rounds into his body. Were they trying to put him out? [ding] If you're in danger, you try to get out the way you get in. Woody took one friggin step toward the door that he came in. And if anyone wants to use the fact that there was a door behind him, do you think he had his wits about him to turn around and go out the correct door and didn't he act like a person who was afraid for his life and didn't his life end. Who said we was at all inappropriate?
George Smith
Hello my name is George Smith, and the reason I'm here today is as someone who's been asked to wait until the investigation is complete, I'm prepared to do that, as to what happened up until the time the incident was finished. What I'm concerned with is what happened after the incident, particularly how the town of Brattleboro and the police department responded to it. If there is ever a time for the police department to speak it is now. That's why I'm hoping to get some information out of the police department Two weeks, a month from now will not be as important as today. There is no legal reason why the police department cannot speak the truth. That's number one. Number 2 is that I feel as the highest ranking officer of the police department you do not go on vacation when the most important thing that has happened happen to the pd has happened if your a lieutenant if your a caption, your not the figurehead are not responsible but if you are responsible do the job. The other thing is, I felt not enough thought was given to the response by the police department as to the little information they gave to the public. It was not wise or prudent for them to say it was done according to proper police procedures. That should have been said after the investigation not before it. The second thing is I felt that in the interest of the citizens of Brattleboro, no matter what of the budgetary reasons, the officers should not have been returned to duty so quickly. I understand they're understaffed. But you have to weight what's important. The gathering here today shows what's important. In conclusion I would like to say that Sarah Edwards' suggestion of a police commission makes damn good sense, because the public, especially now, should be involved in discussions of what the new police chief should be required to do, of how he would react in a critical situation this isn't something you can rehearse I don't think that judgment So I support her idea of a police commission I think police procedures can be reviewed. I think the questions should be asked of what the most important qualifications for a chief how he's going to react when the call for leadership is
Mary Rieves
I'm aware from one of the witnesses of the church there that day that woody was shot that he apologized for causing the police to shoot him. That gives you a sense of how caring he was. I felt moved for some reason to apologize on behalf of my friend I feel a sense of responsibly I was not able to be there to prevent this from happening. I want to apologize on behalf of Woody to all of the people who where traumatized by this in that church. I'm really and truly sorry for the pain you experienced and he horror you will have for the rest of our lives And I know Woody wants us to move on and and he fully supports this movement toward justice We've formed a group called Justice for Woody dot .org Anyone can visit that they like. So please accept my most sincere apologies to everyone in the church and to Woody's family and the community Brattleboro and other communities, and also to the police.
Barbara Holmes
My name is Barbara Holmes, I'm from Brooklyn NY. I've known Woody for about 14 or 15 years. I would say that of Woody's friends, I'm his cynical NY friend. I've always been the voice of you-know there are times when you have to defend yourself. And what I would like to say is that In New York City the police would not have been returned to duty. They would not have docked their salary. They would not do any punishment to them until the investigation is complete. Obviously we're talking about apples and oranges when we're were talking about New York City and Brattleboro. But we might want to think about that. There are unions, I don't know if the Brattleboro Police have unions. As a New York City employee I know that [transcription error]
Bill Oats
My name is Bill Oats I live in Brattleboro, Vermont What Ive heard over and over again is information doesn't seem to matter what side or what your opinion is basic information we've been told the police behaved according to procedures What are those procedures? I have not seen those procedures pub in the Ref but certainly those must be public because there part of our the record of those 911 calls is not an opinion not opinion its a fact that is not going to change those records could be released
unknown
I was under the impression that when Woody was in the church before he was shot he was writing things on the back his checkbook and handing them out to the congregation and handing them to different people in the congregation. I'm just curious what he wrote on the backs of these checks, where these checks are now. if anyone from the congregation knew, what did it say
Polly Wilson
I received a check from Woody he handed it to me, and it said as best I can remember, though I do have it written down, that the Unitarians should form cooperatives to sell economic - gasoline economy cars, and then in a little box it said "use less gas." I felt it was a message personally to me.
Tova
I have two questions. You don't have to answer em. The first one to John Martin. You said that in doling out consequences, you have to assume that person is innocent until they are proven guilty. Why wasn't Woody given the same respect? And if you're going to say that it was because this 140 pound skinny crying man saying he was about to be killed took a step towards these 3 big officers with all their paraphernalia was such a threat that you needed to fire seven rounds into his body, five or more which I've been told by eyewitnesses were while he was on the floor, is a reason to assume that he wasn't innocent, what kind of logic is that? And before you answer that I have a question for the selectman who said something abut people's hatred and anger. I would question you that if it happened to your son, I would be very concerned if you weren't angry And I also want to say that the blase looks on your faces scares me. and I believe it is the numbness and feeling of entitlement of people in positions of power that allows what should obviously irk your consciences to be put aside.
John Martin
The first think I'd really like to clear up is that in order by our policy to use deadly force there must be three factors present. One is jeopardy to people or to the officers. The second is the opportunity of that person and the ability of that person to inflict serious injury or death to the officers or another. If a person, I know there's been alot of misinformation out there, alot of misinformation, and I can't discuss the facts of the case, but let me tell you this. If a person was on the ground in a fetal position or not able to present the jeopardy that is necessary or have the ability, those officers would be in violation of our policy. So again the misinformation out there is certainly driving some opinion but clearly that would be a violation of our policy. Let me say that.
J.B.C. Thomas
First of all I want to thank the people up there for being willing to attend this meeting, to participate in the meeting, I think it was a very courageous thing to do, and I want to thank the people here for being civil, as we thought they would be when the plans were made to have this meeting. But the other two points I want to make: One was the question of the basis for making the decision on the fitness of the officers to back on the beat, and the decision was made based on the information which you had. I would submit that the assessment tools that you had at your disposal were not completely adequate. And I have made the suggestion that there are other police departments in other states who use other more adequate assessment tools as to the suitability of officers to be carrying weapons, and I hope that the Brattleboro Police Department at least, and eventually the Vermont state police department, will choose to spend the money to get more adequate assessment tools of policemen before they do carry deadly weapons. But that's a minor point. The major point I want to make is that there are two processes going on here which are in conflict. One is the legal process, which requires that information be withheld. And John Martin just indicated that he has information that the rest of us -- that seems to be contradictory to what the rest of us think we saw, and that is that there would have been no bullets entering Woody's body when he was lying on the floor, and if that is true that's news to what we thought we saw. And uh .. [expressions of thanks from attendees] So to use that type of thing and then to say you can't say anything more leaves the rest of us very puzzled. [interruption by woman having cell phone conversation] And the main point I want to make is that there is the legal process which we are in the grips of right now, but there is a more important process, and that is the political process, what you're dealing with is a group of people who is generally very reasonable, and willing to listen to reason, but they feel information is being withheld from them, and as a political thing it's the appearance of what's occurring that disturbs us the most, and we would probably want to go to a higher political authority, the legislature or the Governor, to see if some of these questions can be answered.
Mary Rieves
Thank you for your courage and your intelligence, realizing how important it was for you to show up and be here today. Building on what Tom just said about the political and legal process and there's a third one and that's the humanitarian aspect, the human element of what's going on here. I was very moved when Zak had the courage to just ask you for an apology and I noticed there is no acknowledgment, but only defense of what your people had said. However I just want to point out that this healing process on a very basic human level goes both ways, and I would like to ask you John Martin why you ignored or refused to apologize. Do you believe that is an admission of guilt? Why is it difficult for any of you but Sarah to say I'm really sorry for your loss? Why has that not been said?
Jim Herrick
I would like to just state that I am going to leave here this afternoon feeling very frustrated. I feel that I have not gotten any satisfaction or real response from you folks and panelists. I would like to pose a scenario. If one of your officers had been shot down in the street you would not be sitting there with your quiet faces. You would be filled with emotion. That man would have been in jail the second he pulled the trigger. He would have been marked guilty. There would have been investigations and statements flying into the newspaper. I think you are able to be totally detached and dis-respectful because of your police culture which puts you in a completely different position than we the sheep. We are humbled before your total power. You can abuse us, humiliate us; you can shoot us. You carry all the cards. And the fact that you put these two officers back on the street without consideration for what you are stating by doing that to we the people who pay your salaries, means that you hold us in total disregard total disrespect, and nothing seems to be coming out of this aside from stonewalling and making alot of words that will smooth the way until this meeting is over.
Jim
In your earlier comments Mr. Martin, you seemed to imply that keeping the officers on paid administrative leave for any period longer than you did after a psychological evaluation, would somehow constitute considering them guilty until proven innocent. I think that's a disingenuous position. I think it was a slap in the face to the community to put those officers back on the street before any investigation was completed, and that information should be released to the public to show that we could have confidence in that decision.
Jane
What I would like to see is an honest police investigation because it's obvious that Mr. Martin told us this information; Mr. Thomas told us that is not what occurred at the church. So it's obviously a biased investigation. It's already a biased investigation. I would like to see the truth. I want justice for Woody and I want truth.
Mica Geffin
I did not hear hatred out of anyone here. I did not hear any hatred from anyone here. I heard anger and frustration. I did not hear any hatred. I'm hearing that people want the officers off the street. That's what I'm hearing. Next step, I think people want the officers off the street.
unknown
That's exactly what I wanted to say. it seems blatantly obvious to me that we've all come together here to try to come together to establish some kind of trust. And what we've heard over and over and over from the community is that that we need some step now, and although some of us feel outraged that the two officers are on the street and would like them fired for what happened, I think the majority of us would simply like them taken off until we know what happened.
Barbara Holmes
I'd also like to thank Mr. Martin Mr. Remillard and as an outsider, though I've been visiting your beautiful area for many years and I enjoyed it alot, my suggestion is along with the rest of the community that you remove the officers but make a statement that it does not imply guilt, and also continue to give them their full benefits their full pay, and give them a job that does not involve active duty. And it sounds to me like this community is willing to pay their tax money toward this extra expense. If you need hire and train new officers then do that.
Steven Monroe Tomczak
I certainly also would like to echo many of the comments regarding the fact that these men should removed from active duty pending determination of guilt or innocence. And secondly I would also like to say if I can that I very strongly support the right of everyone involved in this process to express themselves fully and completely. My objection to some of the comments in the Reformer have to do with the tone of that and the fact that they were insulting to both some of Woody's friends and Woody himself, in some sense engaging in character assassination, and that was my objection to that. I do also want to say that I appreciate both John and Jerry and Dan Davis for coming out here to today and taking all the questions and answering our questions as well as they could. Obviously we want more information released, but we appreciate what has been released today.
Kurt Wagenback
My name is Kurt Wagenback. I'm a police officer in Brattleboro Vermont. I've been here the entire afternoon. I've been listening to everything that has been said. I can't speak for the department, I can't speak for any of the other officers I work with, but I can speak for myself. The unfortunate event that brought us all here without a doubt was a tragedy. but I want to make sure that everybody knows that if they think for one second anybody int the Brattleboro Police Department is happy that it happened, is proud that it happened, with any fiber of their being wanted to commit any act like murder, they're wrong. The department, myself, other officers I have spoken to are just sick about this incident, that it came to this. I wasn't there. There were 3 officers that were there. They know what happened, other people that were on the scene know what happened. They all believe they know what happened, or they have their interpretation of what happened. I know as much as you guys. I know as much as I've been told, But earlier, when it seemed like a majority of the audience refused to give any of the law enforcement a round of applause that to me came off like a little bit of anger and hatred directed at the police department. And I'll tell you it's tough. But looking around the audience I know there's alot of people here that I know that I recognized that I dealt with one way or the other, whether in my personal life or while at work, and if you take the time outside of this incident and think about how the Brattleboro Police Department has dealt with you, friends of yours, in other instance when they've been called to a particular scene or incident, I'm confident that you're going to recall the were professional, they were courteous, they did their best to help you. This is a truly unfortunate incident. I just want to ask you guys to try to remember that as sorry as I am for Mr Woodward's family and friends, I know that you are, just try to remember that there were 3 officers who had to go home and probably answer the toughest question of their life. One of the officer's five or six year old boy asking him, hey daddy how was your day at work? How does he answer that, how does he prepare his young children to go back to school? there's alot of people who had a very terrible day. Not to take anything away from the Woodwards, but just to remember that if we're going to come together as a community and figure out how to fix this, rather than try to attach blame somewhere and think that's going to fix this, it's not. If we find someone who is guilty heinous crime and punish them for it and think that's going to make us feel better, it's not. Thank-you.

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