By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
A Brandon man is facing charges of illegally possessing firearms just weeks after his neighbor penned a USA Today commentary about “assault-weaponed bullies” in the town of about 4,000 people.
Federal and local authorities raided Eric Grenier’s home on High Pond Road on Friday following a several-week investigation into complaints that he was allegedly engaging in threatening behavior toward other residents, including displaying a handgun in early July while screaming at the author of the commentary.
Michael Shank, a former state Senate candidate from Rutland County who also lives on High Pond Road, penned the commentary published on Aug. 4 in USA Today titled “White extremism is winning in my Vermont town. I’m selling my animal sanctuary and moving.”
Grenier, 39, is expected to make an initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in Burlington on a charge of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He is currently being held at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. Court records did not indicate that he had an attorney.
Documents filed late Monday in federal court, including an affidavit in support of a search warrant for Grenier’s home, indicate that Brandon police began investigating Grenier last month for allegedly threatening several residents while brandishing firearms.
Shank also provided a statement to police, according to that affidavit, telling them of encounters he had with Grenier, including one on July 4 in which he said Grenier had fired two gunshots in his backyard and screamed what Shank said he perceived as death threats.
Shank told police he was providing a statement “in an effort to reduce further harm and violence to everyone involved.”
Police also recounted another incident involving Grenier in February, when officers tried to place him in custody on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident. According to a police affidavit filed in the case, Grenier answered the door wearing what appeared to be a steel-plated ballistic vest and “verbally threatened to shoot the on-scene officers” with his rifle.
Another five-page court filing provided more details into Grenier’s arrest on the recent federal charge against him and the raid that took place Friday at his home.
Eric Brimo, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, wrote in the document that Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell contacted him last week. According to the filing, the police chief reported that he had received information that Grenier was illegally possessing firearms at his residence at 818 High Pond Road in Brandon.
“Specifically,” Brimo wrote, “Chief Brickell stated that BPD was investigating an alleged altercation in which Grenier reportedly displayed a handgun while threatening a neighbor.”
Brickell told the agent that, upon further investigation, Brandon Police Officer Michael VonSchleusingen was granted a state search warrant for Grenier’s home in an effort to locate the handgun that was reportedly displayed in the altercation.
The police chief asked for ATF assistance with the search, according to Brimo’s filing.
On Friday, the filing stated, Brimo and another ATF special agent went to the Brandon Police Dept. to assist in the search. Brimo wrote that Brandon police had contacted Grenier and asked him to come to the police station to discuss the reported altercation with the neighbor.
When Grenier went to the police station, he was detained, and the ATF agents and local police went to his home and conducted the search. Inside a “bedroom that appeared to be used by Grenier and his wife,” the filing stated, police found a DPMS Panther Arms Model LR-308 .308-caliber rifle against a wall, as well as a Winchester XPR 7mm rifle.
Authorities also seized several calibers of assorted ammunition in a cabinet, plus two revolvers, a Smith & Wesson Model 6291 .44 magnum revolver and a Ruger Model Single-Six .22-caliber.
The filing stated that Grenier was a convicted felon, and so could not legally possess firearms. Those prior felony convictions were for burglary and cultivating marijuana, the filing stated.
Before the search, Brimo wrote, Brickell told him that he had met with Grenier, and Grenier denied that there were firearms in his home, telling the police chief he could not possess firearms because he was a convicted felon.
Brickell said Monday that Grenier will also face misdemeanor charges in state court as a result of the investigation, including two counts of criminal threatening, two counts of aggravated disorderly conduct and a count of simple assault. Brickell said Grenier was cited to appear next month in Rutland County Superior criminal court for arraignment on those state offenses. The police chief declined further comment on the case.
According to a filing late Monday afternoon, federal prosecutors will argue during Tuesday’s federal court hearing that Grenier should remain in custody until a trial in the firearms case.
“He has repeatedly threatened to harm others and possibly himself,” the filing stated.
“Family members have expressed deep concern about their own safety,” the filing added. “Although [the] defendant no longer has immediate access to firearms, his history speaks of violent tendencies that cannot be ameliorated by conditions of release.”