BRATTLEBORO -- Just before noon on Friday, the Vermont State Police issued a press release identifying the officer who fired his weapon during a drug raid killing Michael J. Santiago, 35, of Brattleboro, at America’s Best Inn on Putney Road on April 4.
The officer was identified as Brattleboro Police Department’s Sgt. Mark Carignan, who has been with the department since starting as a patrol officer in June 2002. Carignan was placed on administrative leave shortly after the shooting, which occurred just before 6 a.m. He is still on leave, according to Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn. Carignan, before being promoted to sergeant, was a detective with the Brattleboro Police Department. As a sergeant, he is in charge, with a lieutenant, of the day shift.
Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Carignan in 2011 to a two-year term with the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force, which is meant to develop tools to help Vermonters prevent violence in their communities. Carignan received a Masters in Public Administration from Norwich University in 2010 and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire in 1996. Before taking a job with the Brattleboro Police Department, he served for four years on the Dover, N.H., Police Department.
The Vermont Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed that Santiago died of gunshot wounds. Projectiles recovered from his body have been sent to the Vermont Forensic Lab for ballistic analysis.
Following the incident, detectives from the Vermont State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation began an investigation. Officers from the Brattleboro Police Department were attempting to execute a court-ordered search warrant on Room 301. During the initial entry, Carignan discharged his duty weapon, striking Santiago. Rescue personnel were staged nearby and responded immediately to the scene. Santiago was pronounced dead by medical personnel at the scene.
The search warrant was obtained as the result of an ongoing drug investigation and authorized police to search the room for drugs and Santiago. The incident is still under investigation and once complete, will be reviewed by the Bennington County State’s Attorney and Vermont Attorney General’s Office.
The investigation was initially assigned to the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office, but on April 8 State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver announced she was stepping aside due to her office’s close relationship to the Brattleboro Police Department.
"So there can be no question as to the integrity and impartiality of this dual review process," wrote Shiver in a press release, "my office will no longer be involved in the investigation of the shooting ...."
"Another reason I felt it necessary to recuse myself is because Sgt. Carignan was assigned on two different occasions as an investigator in my office at my request," Shriver told the Reformer on Friday.
Santiago, who lived in Brattleboro for 18 years, had been arrested on Nov. 12 and cited with aggravated assault on a police officer, theft from a motor vehicle and credit card fraud. An investigation led police to Santiago and when police attempted to speak with him, he attempted to flee and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Santiago assaulted a police officer, according to a press release. He was one of three people suspected of committing a rash of thefts from motor vehicles in late October and early November.
Nine days later, police responded to Walnut Street for the report of a theft from a vehicle. Officers saw Santiago fleeing the scene on foot. He was arrested and cited with petit larceny and being in possession of burglar’s tools.
According to court documents, Santiago had just been released from jail two-and-a-half weeks before the shooting and was scheduled to appear in court on April 14 on the theft and credit card fraud charges. Santiago also had one heroin conviction in Windsor County and one possession charge pending in Chittenden County.
In 2009, Santiago was arrested on Putney Road for driving with a criminally suspended license.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.