Tuesday November 13, 2012

VERNON -- Police used tear gas Monday night to force an armed man from his apartment, ending a day-long standoff that spurred evacuations and shut a busy road.

Thaddeus Cross, 42, will be cited with unlawful restraint and reckless endangerment today, Acting Vernon Police Chief Keith Clark said.

In spite of the duration of the standoff, no one was injured and no shots were fired.

"Bottom line is, after a very long day, everyone is safe - including him," Clark said during a press conference held Monday night at the Vernon Police Department after the standoff ended.

Some details remained sketchy late Monday; Clark said he could not speculate on why Cross allegedly barricaded himself in his apartment at 4591 Fort Bridgman Road, a stone’s throw from the Massachusetts line.

Clark said Cross sent out a distressed text message in the early morning hours, threatening to harm himself. The situation took a turn for the worse when a neighbor checked on him.

"He pulled her into the apartment and initially would not let her go while waiving a gun around," Clark said, adding that a ringing phone distracted Cross, allowing the woman to escape unharmed.

Friends or family members then visited, trying to get Cross to leave the apartment. He would not, Clark said, and eventually they also departed.

"We’re not calling them hostages," Clark said. "We don’t feel that he ever intended to keep them from leaving."

The incident prompted a large-scale police response, with local officers in Vernon, Northfield and Bernardston joined by Vermont State Police and Massachusetts State Police. Vermont State Police sent its Tactical Support Unit, and troopers came from as far away as St. Albans and St. Johnsbury, Clark said.

Five apartments in the same building were evacuated, though no other residents had to leave nearby homes. Route 142 was shut, with Clark saying police were concerned for motorists’ safety.

"We felt that, initially, we could talk him into coming out. And that failed to be the case," Clark said.

Cross stopped responding to officers around 6:30 p.m., Clark said. Then, "after almost two hours with no contact with him . . . it was decided to use forcible entry," Clark said. "Tear gas was deployed into his house."

Cross left the apartment and surrendered after a second round of tear gas, Clark said.

The building’s other tenants were being lodged elsewhere for the night. They should be able to return today, Clark said.

"The fire department’s trying to get the tear gas out," he said.

One of those tenants was Kellie Poplawski, who said she was roused from bed around 8:30 a.m. Monday.

"The manager knocked on my door and said, ‘You’ve got to get out of your apartment,’" Poplawski said.

She left without her purse or any other belongings, also leaving an ill cat behind. She noted the size of the police presence at the scene as residents were evacuated.

"They were all geared up," Poplawski said. "They had the big guns. They pulled out this huge rifle from one of the cars."

As for Cross, Poplawski said she knew him and got along with him.

"I’ve never known him to act like this," she said.

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