A man died early Friday morning as the result of an officer-involved shooting in Montpelier, Vermont, according to state police.
Authorities say police received a call around 5 a.m. from a resident in an apartment building on Main Street, who reported a man with a knife in the building. The man was said to live in the building.
When two officers responded to the area, later identified as Cpl. Chad Bean and Officer Chris Quesnel, they saw a man, later identified as 62-year-old Mark Johnson, running from the apartment complex and carrying what they thought was a handgun.
Neighbor Dick Eisele told necn he woke up to the sound of yelling.
“It was vigorous, I can tell you that,” Eisele recalled.
Police said Johnson was ordered repeatedly to drop the gun. He then climbed on the railing of the Spring Street bridge.
After several minutes, police said Johnson pointed the gun at the officers. At that point, Cpl. Bean, who has been employed by the department since February 2007, fired his patrol rifle at Johnson, striking him, authorities said.
Police rendered first aid and an EMS team brought Johnson to Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, where he was pronounced dead.
The Chief Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy and determined Johnson's cause of death was two shots to the torso. The manner of death was found to be homicide, according to state police.
No other injuries were reported.
Spring Street and part of Main Street, including the roundabout, were closed for much of Friday during the investigation, but they were reopened mid-afternoon.
It was later learned Johnson actually had a pellet pistol.
“It looks very very similar to a Beretta—a real pistol,” Vermont State Police Maj. Dan Trudeau noted.
“Mr. Johnson does have a history of some mental illness,” Trudeau said in response to a reporter’s question. “We’re still looking into that.”
Neighbors in Johnson’s apartment building said he was always glad to help out, with projects like cleaning snow off their cars in the winter.
“He was a nice guy,” said neighbor Robbie Hackett. “Kept to himself a lot for the most part, but you know, he had some problems.”
Another neighbor, Morgan Brown, said Johnson would occasionally bring him food or other small gifts.
“I’m not making judgements—I didn’t see what happened,” Brown said. “But I just want to say that Mark Johnson was a good soul.”
The Montpelier officers involved, Bean and Quesnel, have both been placed on paid administrative leave, VSP said, which is protocol.
Trudeau noted that Montpelier police do not have body cameras, but that this tense encounter was captured on a cruiser camera.
That footage will surely be a big part of the ongoing investigation and review in the case, which is being conducted by Vermont State Police with the assistance of the Barre City Police Department and the University of Vermont Police Department.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing. Investigators would like to speak to anyone who drove through the area, including the roundabout at Main and Spring streets, around the time of the shooting. Anyone with information is asked to call VSP Middlesex at 802-229-9191.
Once the investigation is complete, it will be turned over for independent reviews by the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the Washington County State's Attorney's Office, state police said.
This was the second fatal police shooting in the city in less than two years. In January 2018, a bank robbery suspect was shot on the grounds of Montpelier High School after he refused to surrender. That suspect was armed with a BB gun police said also looked like a realistic firearm.