Wednesday November 14, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Less than 24 hours after police forced his surrender with tear gas following a lengthy standoff, a Vernon man was released from custody Tuesday.

Thaddeus Cross, 42, still faces three charges related to the Monday incident, which brought more than 30 police officers to his Fort Bridgman Road apartment and forced evacuations. He also must report daily to police, refrain from drinking and adhere to other rules.

But Judge John P. Wesley, relying in part on an expert’s evaluation, decided to not impose bail that might have kept Cross behind bars. That came at the request of defense attorney James Valente, who argued that his client will not flee and is not dangerous.

"The person who did his assessment -- his mental-health assessment -- found he was not a risk to himself or others," Valente said.

Cross appeared in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division for arraignment and entered a not-guilty plea for three charges -- unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment and simple assault attempted by menace.

He had been held overnight at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield after police said he threatened himself and others during a day-long standoff at 4591 Fort Bridgman Road.

More details emerged Tuesday in a court affidavit. Vernon police Sgt. Bruce Gauld said he was notified at 7:39 a.m. that Cross had been cutting himself in his apartment.

"I was also informed he had threatened to shoot any police officer that responded," Gauld wrote.

While Cross’ criminal record consists only of a conviction for driving under the influence, the affidavit shows he is no stranger to police.

"I know him to frequently consume alcohol. He has a past history of depression and threatening suicide," Gauld wrote. "I also know him to have several firearms in his residence. I have witnessed a rifle behind his apartment’s front door, which in the past he claimed was loaded."

Due to those circumstances, Gauld called for backup. A number of Vermont state troopers responded, including the state police tactical support unit.

The affidavit says another tenant in the building had been receiving suicidal text messages and photos from Cross starting at 2:30 a.m.

The tenant, a woman, responded by asking Cross whether his guns had been put away.

"Cross responded that they were," Gauld wrote. "She asked if she could bring him some bandages, and he said she could."

She went to Cross’ apartment and, before she could knock, the suspect opened the door and pulled her in, police said. Locking the door behind her, Cross stood between the woman and the door "waving a gun around," Gauld wrote.

"Cross told her not to worry, it was only a BB gun," the affidavit says. "He then put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger but nothing happened."

Police said Cross also took the woman’s cell phone but became distracted when it rang, allowing the victim to escape.

"Cross ran after her and gave her back the cell phone and then retreated to his apartment," Gauld wrote. The woman "then started getting text messages from Cross again, calling her names and telling her he had the gun in his mouth."

Acting Vernon Police Chief Keith Clark has said others tried to coax Cross from his apartment, but with no success. The same was true for police who lost contact with the suspect around 6:30 p.m. Monday and resorted to using tear gas a few hours later.

Cross surrendered after police fired a second round of tear gas, authorities have said. No injuries were reported, but the standoff forced evacuation of several other apartments in the same building and closed a section of Route 142.

In court Tuesday afternoon, Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver asked the judge to maintain $2,500 bail that had been set for Cross after his arrest.

She called his behavior "erratic" and "unpredictable," noting alleged "indications by Mr. Cross that he was not going to go quietly."

But Valente, in an interview after the court proceeding, cited the expert assessment of his client and said "the problem here is not a mental-health issue . . . but the result of excessive intoxication."

He also referred to Cross as "very competent."

"I was pleasantly surprised how grounded he was and self-conscious," Valente said.

In court, Valente also said Cross -- who has lived in Vernon for a dozen years and has family in the area -- is not a risk to flee from authorities.

"His ties to the community are extremely strong," the attorney said.

In fact, Valente said his client intended to return to his apartment upon leaving the courthouse Tuesday.

After hearing those arguments, Wesley noted that "bail is intended to be imposed only when there is significant danger of nonappearance" for future hearings.

In this case, Wesley said, the other conditions imposed on Cross "not only are appropriate to protect the public but also to ensure appearance."

Those conditions include:

-- Cross must report to police daily between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Because Cross also must take a test to show he has not been drinking, and because Vernon police don’t have the proper equipment for that test, he must travel to the Brattleboro police station.

-- He is not allowed to have any contact with the woman he allegedly threatened or with the building’s manager.

-- He must be fingerprinted and photographed.

-- Cross also must complete a substance-abuse assessment within 30 days.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.