BRATTLEBORO — Two Vermont State Troopers were ordered Monday to appear in Vermont Superior Court in Brattleboro next week to face charges in connection with their use of a bean bag to try to de-escalate a situation involving an unruly suspect on a roof last summer, officials said.
Vermont Attorney General Charity Clark is seeking to charge Patrol Sgt. Ryan Wood and Trooper Zachary Trocki with reckless endangerment and simple assault for the incident that happened about 2:15 a.m. on June 17, 2022 in Newfane, officials said. They are due in court May 30.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been established to help support the two state troopers and their families once Wood and Trocki go on unpaid leave next week. The money is intended to cover rent, food and monthly bills.
The fundraiser quickly generated more than $11,300 toward a preliminary goal of $25,000 by early Monday afternoon.
Former Vermont State Trooper James Matthews, who is one of the organizers, said the two troopers had acted in good faith during an emergency.
He said the criminal charges come after 11 months of uncertainty while waiting for the AG to rule. Matthews wrote it appears the “motivation to bring charges now may be political.”
“We cannot let our frustration for isolated national incidents involving use of force influence our approach to those who put their lives on the line every day to protect our freedoms at home,” Matthews said.
Clark has not responded to a series of phone messages last week and this week seeking comment since Thursday, when the Vermont Troopers’ Association first reported she planned to file criminal charges. Clark remained unavailable Monday.
Thursday, Clark’s office offered a brief statement: “Prosecutors are subject to particular rules of professional responsibility that prevent us from commenting at this time.”
Vermont prosecutors, including past Attorneys General, through the years have often provided statements about cases. But Clark’s chief of staff, Lauren Jandl, said in her experience with the office under T.J. Donovan and Susanne Young, that never happened prior to a finding of probable cause, an arraignment or a citation.
Mike O’Neil, the VTA’s executive director, said Monday that the union is providing the officers with legal assistance.
Wood and Trocki were initially placed on paid administrative duty in the Westminster barracks following the incident. They were moved to paid administrative leave on Monday after the citations were issued. They will be taken off the payroll starting next Tuesday until the case is resolved.
Jandl said Donovan and Young were investigating the matter during their tenures as AG. Clark, who was sworn in in early January, is now proceeding with the case.
News reports after the incident indicated Wood and Trocki were dispatched to the two-story residence on Vermont Route 30 in Newfane due to a complaint by the homeowner about a guest causing property damage and acting irrationally.
The troopers found the suspect on the roof about 2:15 a.m., brandishing a handheld saw near the back side of the house on a surface slightly above street level, police said. The man ignored police commands.
Based on the totality of the circumstances and the uncontrolled actions of the man, police said a decision was made to shoot a non-lethal bean bag to try to encourage compliance to the ignored commands. Trocki deployed the bean-bag round.
The man moved to the back of the roof, tripped and fell, sustaining a serious head injury, police said. He later recovered, but was never charged in court.