On September 13, 2023

County prosecutor clears Fair Haven officer in fatal shooting

By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger

The Rutland County state’s attorney said he has determined that the fatal shooting of a Castleton man by a Fair Haven police officer earlier this year was justified and he will not file criminal charges.

The shooting by Fair Haven Police Detective Shaun Hewitt took place June 19 in Fair Haven, killing 38-year-old Kenneth Barber Jr. Authorities said Barber struck Hewitt with his vehicle after the latter had responded to reports of an altercation among neighbors. 

State’s attorney Ian Sullivan issued a 38-page memo late Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 6, outlining his conclusion that the shooting was justified. It included statements from witnesses, Vermont State Police investigators, Hewitt, and video and audio recordings. 

“Barber’s actions placed Detective Hewitt in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury,” Sullivan wrote in the memo.

Barber was on furlough from the state Department of Corrections as the result of a second-degree murder conviction, Sullivan wrote.

“Detective Hewitt’s background knowledge of Mr. Barber’s capacity for homicidal violence and extraordinarily dangerous driving both reinforce the peril he faced,” the prosecutor added. “The deadly force Detective Hewitt used was a justifiable response to the danger he faced.”

Generally, in deaths caused by police’s use of force, separate investigations are conducted by the local county attorney’s office and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, with the both announcing their findings simultaneously.

The review of this case by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office investigation remains ongoing, Lauren Jandl, a spokesperson, said Thursday, Sept. 7.

According to investigators, a fight took place between Barber and his neighbors on Washington Street in Fair Haven after he left his residence with a handgun around 7:30 p.m. on June 19.

The neighbors restrained Barber, called police and separated him from the gun, police said. After Hewitt arrived at the scene, Barber broke free, got into a vehicle and attempted to drive away, according to police.

Barber struck Hewitt with the vehicle, and Hewitt fired one shot at him, striking and killing him, police said.

Many of the events upon Hewitt’s arrival at the scene were captured on a neighbor’s home security camera, Sullivan wrote in his memo. Hewitt wore an audio recorder but was not equipped with a body-worn camera or cruiser camera, according to the prosecutor.

Hewitt, in an interview with investigators, said police had received a call from Laurie Ellis reporting that her son had been assaulted by a person who threw scissors at him. Hewitt, who was at the Fair Haven Police Department, drove to the scene to find that Ellis and two men were holding Barber on the ground.

One of the men said Barber had a gun and that they couldn’t keep holding him, so Hewitt got closer and tried to hold Barber’s upper body and discovered that Barber had a gun in his waistband, Sullivan stated in his memo. 

“(Hewitt) directed one of the other people to try to take Mr. Barber’s gun away from (Barber) because he could not reach it from his position,” Sulllivan wrote. “They were able to remove the item from Mr. Barber’s waistband and throw it on the lawn.”

Hewitt, who lost his balance and fell, reported that as he was getting up Barber was heading toward a vehicle. Hewitt said he chased after him, catching up to him around the rear panel of the driver’s side of the car and trying to deploy pepper spray.

“It did not work,” Sullivan wrote. “(Hewitt) tried several times with no effect.” 

Hewitt reported that Barber got into the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The officer said he was concerned that there might be a weapon in the car or that Barber might use the car as a weapon, Sullivan wrote.

Barber then started the engine, Hewitt told investigators, and put the vehicle in reverse, at first slowly backing up. Hewitt reported he was trying to keep pace with the vehicle as an open door was sweeping him along and the vehicle began to speed up, the prosecutor wrote.

Hewitt told investigators he was afraid he was going to get stuck under the vehicle or dragged by the car so he took out his firearm and fired a single shot at Barber, striking him. Hewitt said he went to get his first-aid kit and a nurse who had been passing by stopped to provide aid to Barber, Sullivan wrote. 

An autopsy by the state’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the cause of Barber’s death was a gunshot wound to his torso. The autopsy found that had drugs in his system, including naloxone, an overdose reversing drug, and a blood-alcohol level of 0.249, more than three times the 0.08 legal limit for driving in Vermont.

Following the shooting, Sullivan wrote in his memo, Barber’s girlfriend spoke to a Vermont State Police corporal whose body-worn camera captured her saying, “I just want you guys to let Shaun know that Kenny’s plan was, instead of going back to jail, he was going to die suicide by cop.”

According to a report in the Rutland Herald, Barber had been sentenced in 2005 to 15 years to life in the death of Charles Schlosser of Benson, admitting to hitting Schlosser in the head during a robbery.

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Five local organizations receive grants from Vermont Women’s Fund

June 19, 2024
The Vermont Women’s Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation announced the recipients of its 2024 annual grant round, June 17. A total of $365,180 was awarded to 36 organizations across Vermont; five of which went to organizations in Rutland or Windsor County.  “The work these organizations do improves the lives of women and girls across…

Castleton Elementary School’s Carl Cougar crowned Slate Valley’s mascot champion

June 19, 2024
Castleton Elementary School’s Carl Cougar has been crowned champion of the first Slate Valley Mascot Madness competition for the 2023-24 school year. Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell presented the honors to Carl on Friday morning, June 14. The awarded trophy was designed and created by Middle School student, Deshawn Ingram, who used both the 3D printer and…

Chloe Masillo and Sophia Nisimblat recognized for excellence

June 19, 2024
The winners of two local scholarship awards, sponsored by the Greater Killington Women’s Club, were recently presented at the Woodstock Union High School Senior Awards Night ceremony. The Club disburses two $1,000 awards to graduating seniors each year.  The Sherburne Academic Award is presented to a Killington or Pittsfield resident with the highest weighted GPA…

New England Cider Donuts opens in Ludlow

June 19, 2024
The grand opening of New England Cider Donuts at 29 Main St. in Ludlow was recently celebrated with a ribbon cutting. The new shop will offer local coffee, breakfast sandwiches, assorted baked goods, in addition to delicious cider and specialty donuts. In the summer it’ll also offer ice cream sundaes. Pictured: David Bennett, owner, cuts…