Use of force analyzed under both current Vermont law and new statute
The Attorney General’s Office is declining to prosecute Rutland City Police Department Officer Tyler Billings, who was responsible for the non-fatal shooting of Michael Goodnough, 45, of Rutland.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced Nov. 24 that his office concluded its review of the officer-involved shooting that occurred on July 8, 2020, in Rutland.
Based on the facts and circumstances, and consistent with Vermont law, the Attorney General’s Office has concluded that the actions of Officer Billings were justified.
In anticipation of Vermont’s new statute addressing use of force by police officers, the lawfulness of this shooting was also analyzed under Act 165, which goes into effect on July 1, 2021 and was modeled after a California statute. Under the new statute, the use of force would also have been justified because, based on the totality of the circumstances, it was both reasonable and necessary to protect Officer Nathan Harvey from an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.
In reaching the decision, the Attorney General’s Office reviewed all the materials provided by the Vermont State Police, who conducted the investigation. These materials included statements of the officers involved and civilian witnesses, video footage, and a ballistics examination of the weapon used to carry out the shooting.
As noted above, when Officer Billings deployed his weapon, Officer Harvey was lying on the ground just inches away from the front wheel of the suspect’s vehicle as the vehicle began to move forward. Moreover, Officer Billings had just witnessed Officer Harvey being dragged by the open door of the suspect’s vehicle, which he then saw collide with Officer Harvey’s cruiser, throwing him to the ground.
Under the totality of these circumstances, a reasonable officer in Officer Billings’ position would undoubtedly have concluded that there was an imminent threat to Officer Harvey’s life and that to save his life, there was no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force. Moreover, once the driver no longer posed a threat to Officer’s Harvey’s life, Officer Billings stopped deploying his weapon. Therefore, applying the standard of Act 165 would have the same conclusion: Officer Billings’ use of deadly force in this case was justified.
Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver, who reviewed this matter for the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s Office, also conducted an independent, concurrent review of the same materials and has also declined to file charges against Officer Billings.