Friday April 26, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- A state trooper says he was preparing to shoot at a Newfane man who allegedly fired three rounds in the air Wednesday evening after declaring, "You want a shootout, I'll give you a shootout."

But that's when 71-year-old Welton W. Townsend abruptly ended the incident by dropping his gun and lying on the ground, police said.

On Thursday, Townsend was arraigned on misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division.

Townsend's attorney, Richard Ammons, said his client appeared to be of sound mind and has no criminal record.

"He says the only thing he's ever had is a speeding ticket," Ammons said.

State police said they were summoned to Townsend's Grimes Hill Road home at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a suicidal man who had "a .357-caliber handgun and was going to take his own life," court documents say.

Troopers surrounded the home, but Townsend didn't answer phone calls. At some point, his wife emerged and was led to a "safe area," police said.

Police said Townsend, wearing underwear but no pants or shoes, shortly thereafter emerged and began yelling at a trooper from his front porch. He promised a shootout, went inside and then emerged with a "black, revolver-style handgun," state police Trooper Christopher Lora wrote in a court affidavit.

"As soon as Townsend came outside, he looked directly at me, raised the pistol and fired a single round into the air," Lora wrote.

Ignoring demands that he drop the weapon, "Townsend was yelling for us to shoot him and began to step down off the porch," Lora added.

Townsend allegedly fired two more shots into the air and began to walk toward one of the troopers. Lora said he "prepared to fire on Townsend due to his sudden escalation."

But Townsend "suddenly threw down his gun," Lora wrote. "Townsend complied with our orders and laid on the ground."

After Townsend's arrest, his wife told troopers he "had been dealing with some personal issues the last few days and seemed to be taking things personal," the affidavit says.

In court on Thursday, Ammons offered more detail after speaking with Townsend.

"He said he was feeling pretty low for a couple of days, and he was drinking some alcohol -- not a lot," Ammons told Judge David Suntag.

Ammons added that Townsend also had recently visited the grave of a pet dog.

"Apparently, things came over him, and events ensued," Ammons said.

Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Shriver asked Suntag to hold Townsend on $5,000 bail. She also requested that he be ordered to stay away from his home and his wife.

Ammons argued that there were no reports that Townsend had threatened his wife. He also pointed out that his client was a retired mental-health worker who has had no previous brushes with the law.

But Suntag contended that, given the nature of the incident, troopers may have shown restraint in not firing at Townsend.

"All of this behavior appears to have placed a great many people at risk," Suntag said.

The judge imposed several conditions of release requested by Shriver, including prohibitions on firearms and alcohol. Suntag did not order Townsend held on bail but said he cannot return home and cannot contact his wife.

"You can't go anywhere near her. You can't try to contact her," Suntag said. "That's the quickest way to end up in jail."

Townsend said he would stay at a cabin with another relative. Suntag ordered him to not leave that address except to participate in court-related activities.

Townsend also must undergo a mental-health evaluation.

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