A Vermont sheriff’s deputy will not be prosecuted for shooting and killing an unarmed suspect last month, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan announced Thursday.
"This was an extremely tense situation," Donovan said of the fatal encounter, which was captured on police body camera footage that was released to reporters Thursday upon the completion of the investigation.
The video, recorded late in the afternoon on Sept. 16, shows 29-year-old Jesse Beshaw running from police in Winooski.
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Authorities have said they were trying to arrest Beshaw because he was a suspect in multiple armed robberies and a burglary, and officers believed he carried a handgun.
Investigators said Nicholas Palmier, a Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy, had just returned home to the Chittenden County city of Winooski following his shift. Palmier found local police trying to serve their warrant on Beshaw near Palmier’s own home, Donovan’s office said.
Palmier was still in his Franklin County uniform and had his equipment and cruiser with him. After Beshaw fled the house where Winooski officers were preparing to serve the warrant, Palmier chased after the suspect, according to investigators.
The body camera video shows Palmier caught up to Beshaw near a basketball court behind Winooski’s community center. Beshaw had one hand behind his back as he was heading toward the officer, and Beshaw was repeatedly yelling "do it."
Palmier, meanwhile, yelled "I will shoot you" several times, with his gun drawn.
What followed that exchange was a flurry of shots from Franklin County Deputy Nick Palmier. Six bullets would strike Beshaw; a seventh grazed him. He died on the concrete where he fell.
Investigators said it turned out Beshaw did not have a gun on him.
"Nick Palmier acted as I think a reasonable person would have during those circumstances, knowing what he knew at that particular moment," Donovan said, announcing there will be no criminal charges filed against the deputy for shooting Beshaw.
Palmier remains on paid administrative leave, Franklin County Sheriff Robert Norris said. Norris added that the deputy is currently receiving mental health counseling stemming from the trauma from the shooting.
After the legal decision was announced, several of Beshaw’s friends and neighbors told necn they consider the shooting unacceptable.
"There was no idea of de-escalation," said Winooski resident Jess Fuller, who lives near the shooting scene. "And this happened near where children were. That never should have happened."
Asked about the location of the shooting behind a YMCA and community center, Donovan did acknowledge the body camera footage briefly shows Palmier running past a child, while asking the girl which direction Beshaw was running.
There were no bystanders in the line of fire, investigators from the Vermont State Police said.
"I don’t think that seven shots is ever justified," said Luca Long, a Winooski resident who also lives near the scene of the shooting. "No matter if they thought he had a handgun. Seven shots is not justified."
Donovan said he hopes the police and the community can learn from this case, and that more knowledge or training opportunities that arise from it can help avoid another fatal encounter like it in the future.
"This is a terrible outcome," Donovan said of Beshaw’s death. "This is an outcome nobody wants."