By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has ruled a Rutland City police officer was justified in using deadly force when he shot and killed a man inside a bathroom at a McDonald’s restaurant. The officer said he believed the man was charging at him with a weapon, but it turned out to be a cellphone.
Rutland City Police Cpl. Christopher Rose had followed Jonathan Mansilla into the restaurant bathroom on the afternoon of Aug. 25 after investigators say Mansilla crashed his vehicle at a nearby intersection while fleeing an earlier car crash in Rutland.
“In this case,” the Attorney General’s Office stated in a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 17, “Corporal Rose reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm when Mr. Mansilla abruptly exited the bathroom stall and ran toward him with what Corporal Rose believed to be a weapon.”
The release added, “Under these facts and circumstances and consistent with Vermont law, the actions of the officer were justified. The Attorney General’s Office has declined to file charges against Corporal Rose.”
Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said Wednesday afternoon that Rose has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.
He said that as a result of the attorney general’s finding that Rose will return from leave and be allowed to work on administrative duties, including training, as the department conducts its own internal investigation into the shooting.
Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan could not immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.
According to investigators, Mansilla, 33, of Coral Gables, Florida, crashed his vehicle into a UPS delivery truck at the corner of Allen and South Main streets in Rutland before he ran into McDonald’s with Rose following him.
The news release from the Attorney’s General’s Office on Wednesday stated that Rose yelled at Mansilla to stop as he was chasing him on foot but Mansilla continued, entering the north side of the restaurant, with Rose entering about six seconds later.
Mansilla, according to the release, appeared to reach for a “locking mechanism” on the door, but couldn’t activate it before running toward the front counter, down a hallway and into the men’s room.
“Corporal Rose arrived at the men’s restroom door approximately seven seconds later and immediately attempted to open the main door to the restroom by pushing on it with his left hand,” the release stated. “Corporal Rose was unable to open the door due to apparent resistance from the other side of the door.”
About six seconds later, according to the release, Rose removed his hand from the door and started to walk away from the door.
“Corporal Rose then turned around and reapproached the restroom door, again pushing on the door with his left hand this time apparently without resistance,” the release stated. “He then backed away from the door, clipped his radio into his belt, and placed his right hand on his holstered firearm.”
Rose then went into the restroom with his firearm drawn, the release stated, and Mansilla was in a locked stall.
“Corporal Rose identified himself again as an officer and commanded Mr. Mansilla to show him his hands. Mr. Mansilla made no response,” according to the release. “Approximately nine seconds later, Mr. Mansilla abruptly exited the stall and ran towards Corporal Rose, while screaming, with his arm raised around head level and carrying in his hand what Corporal Rose believed to be a weapon.”
As Mansilla ran toward Rose, the release stated, Rose shot Mansilla and they both stumbled out of the restroom into the hallway.
“It was later determined that Mr. Mansilla was not armed when he was shot and that the object he had in his hand was a cell phone,” according to police. Rutland City police officers do not wear body cameras.
David Heria, Mansilla’s nephew, told VTDigger last month he had lots of questions about the shooting, including why lethal force was used.
“If he was breaking into houses and stuff like that, yeah, by all means, but he hit the back of the car; it wasn’t really that serious,” Heria said. “They could’ve tased him,” he said. “They could’ve shot him, don’t get me wrong; they could’ve shot him in his leg, his arm, his stomach — not shoot to kill.”
At the time of the shooting, according to investigators, Mansilla was on probation out of Connecticut for enticing a minor, and a violation of that probation was pending.
In addition to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office was reviewing the investigation into the shooting conducted by Vermont State Police.
Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage, in an email late Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 17, said her office had reached the same conclusion as the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. The Bennington County State’s Attorney’s Office conducted that review due to the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office having a conflict in the case.
On Nov. 15, the Attorney General’s Office cleared a Hartford police officer in a fatal shooting in that town this summer.