Prosecutor: Officer shooting of mentally ill man justified

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Burlington police officer’s fatal shooting of a knife-wielding mentally ill man in a downtown apartment was justified, the county prosecutor and attorney general offices announced Tuesday.

Ralph “Phil” Grenon, 76, was shot March 21 by Officer David Bowers in Grenon’s apartment.

“Under the facts of this case, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that Officer Bowers was reasonable in his belief that he and his fellow officers were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired at Ralph Grenon, who was continuing to advance at the officers armed with knives despite repeated attempts by the police to resolve the situation peacefully, and after use of multiple types of less than lethal force had failed to resolve the situation. Under those circumstances, Officer Bowers’ decision to use deadly force was reasonable and justified,” the office of Attorney General William Sorrell said in a statement.

The incident began when a member of the Howard Center Outreach Team requested that a Burlington police officer accompany her to visit Grenon, who had previously threatened to stab members of the team and was facing eviction, officials said.

As Bowers and another officer accompanied the outreach worker, they learned of a 911 call reporting that Grenon was out of control and threatening others.

The officers did not get a response when they knocked on Grenon’s door and asked him to open it so they entered using keys and found Grenon standing in the entryway with a knife in each hand. He refused repeated orders to drop the knives and slammed the front door shut, the attorney general’s office said.

Over the next four hours, police then tried to speak with Grenon by phone or through the front door to persuade him to come out, but he did not respond, authorities said. Police learned that Grenon suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medications.

Eight officers eventually entered the apartment and found him standing in a bathtub hiding behind a shower curtain holding two knives. The officers fired pepper balls into the bathroom and fired a taser stun gun but it did not subdue Grenon, authorities said. Grenon advanced at the officers screaming and swinging the knives, the Chittenden County prosecutor’s officer said.

As the officers backed into the bedroom and Bowers could not retreat any further in the confined space, he fired six shots, hitting Grenon four times, the county prosecutor’s office said. Officers began CPR and called emergency crews, the prosecutor’s said. Grenon died at the hospital.