The Injustice of December 2
Robert Woodward, 'Woody', our dearly beloved friend, entered the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in West Brattleboro, Vermont around 10 AM on Sunday morning, December 2, 2001, and pleaded to the assembled congregation to give him political asylum, explaining that government authorities sought to torture and kill him. Very quickly the children were taken outside, and church president Charles Butterfield went to the office to place a 911 call. According to Charles he requested plainclothes officers be dispatched and related that Woody was "deathly afraid" of authorities. At some point most of the congregation left the room. While that was occurring Woody took out a pocket knife and pointed it at his face threatening to hurt himself if people did not stay to bear witness for him. Eighteen people decided to heed Woody's plea and stay. When a parishioner told Woody he was scaring people, he apologized and put away the knife. Another parishioner gained Woody's trust and sat down next to him, then attempted to make phone calls for him on a cell phone.
Just as the calls were being attempted, and only about 14 minutes after Woody entered the church, three Brattleboro police officers, dressed in body armor and carrying pepper spray and semiautomatic 40 caliber pistols, entered the room and advanced on Woody. When Woody saw the police he jumped up and again took out the knife and pointed it at his face. Some witnesses heard shouts of "drop the knife" but others could not understand what the police were saying.
Within less than a minute of the police entering, two of the three policemen shot seven rounds into Woody. A fusillade of shots followed the first two shots, so rapid that to some witnesses it sounded like a single shot. One detailed account describes the police firing the fusillade of rounds into Woody as he was lying on the floor, curled up in a fetal position, and holding the knife to his face. The police had made no attempt to use negotiation or nonlethal restraint such as their pepper spray to subdue Woody.
While Woody lay on the floor bleeding heavily and with a shattered elbow, the police proceeded to handcuff his wrists behind his back, forcing him to his stomach. The police refused repeated requests from a physician present that the handcuffs be removed so she could access his wounds to stop the bleeding.
43 minutes elapsed between the time of the shooting and the time Woody arrived in the emergency room of the local hospital 3 miles away. It took over three and one half hours to move Woody to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital which had the facilities needed to treat his heart trauma. He died shortly after arriving there around 2 PM.
Every one of the witnesses who has been willing to talk publicly has maintained that Woody never threatened anyone but himself.
Woody had never had a run-in with the law. He was known for his rationality and equanimity.
This account is supported by the detailed narrative of events compiled from eyewitness statements.