09:20 GMT25 February 2021
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    Burlington police were ruled justified in a non-fatal shooting of a man armed with a non-lethal air rifle and salad tongs in September, the state ruled on Tuesday, though they noted that the officers had turned off their body cameras.

    On September 20, two officers were involved in a stand-off with James Hemingway, 20, after arriving at his home in response to reports he was drunk and despondent. When the officers arrived, they were told that he was armed, and he had reportedly been making threats towards the officers.

    Hemingway had an air rifle, as well as salad tongs tucked into his pants, which the officers claim that they believed to be a weapon.

    Sergeant Brian Labarge and Detective Rick Volp shot at Hemingway over a dozen times, after turning off their body cameras — a move they justified by claiming they feared the sounds and blinking lights would give away their locations.

    While the shooting was ruled justified, the issue with the body cameras raised some concerns for Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan.

    "Officers should not have to choose (between) performing (the) core functions of their jobs and ensuring their own safety by leaving their body cameras on," Donovan stated.
    He further asked that departments evaluate their use of the Taser Axon cameras.

    Taser maintains that the sounds and lights on the devices can be turned off without disabling the camera function.

    Hemingway claims the events unfolded far differently than the officers claim, and body camera footage may have proved useful.

    "It's absolutely significant that the loss of the Axon video that would have otherwise recorded visually and (audibly) what was said because much of what they're saying are actions based on what they saw and what was said," Hemingway's attorney Benjamin Luna told Yahoo News.

    After learning that he was misinformed of the camera’s capabilities following his decision to clear the officers, Donovan told Vermont Public Radio that he may have received inaccurate information from officers regarding the capabilities of the body cameras and plans to investigate the matter further.

    Burlington police Deputy Chief Bruce Bovat claims that his department was just so eager to begin use of the cameras that they failed to learn how to properly use them. He has stated that he intends to remedy the situation.

    Vermont remains the only state in the nation without any fatal encounters with police in 2015.


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    Police Shooting, Detective Rick Volp, Sergeant Brian Labarge, James Hemingway, Vermont, Burlington
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