Vermont State Police continue to investigate into the fatal officer-involved shooting by a member of the Hartford Police Department on Thursday.
The Hartford Police Officer who was attacked and subsequently fired his duty weapon is Cpl. Eric Clifford, a 12-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department. His department photo is attached to this release.
The deceased man is identified as Joseph John Howard, 35, of Bradford. An autopsy performed by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington identified the cause of his death as gunshot wounds to the chest, and the manner of death as homicide – shot by law enforcement. Howard had no prior involvements with the Hartford Police Department and was not known to the agency.
The homeowner who called 911 is Michael Martin, 68, who lives at the Paula Street address where the incident took place. Investigators have determined that Martin called police to report that Howard, whom he did not know, showed up at Martin’s residence shortly after he returned home, confronted Martin in his driveway, causing him to fear for his safety, and refused to leave the property.
According to preliminary information gathered by investigators, the case began when Hartford police received a 911 call at about 1:30 p.m. from Martin who reported that a person he did not know was creating a disturbance outside the caller’s home on Paula Street.
When Clifford arrived on scene, Howard ignored the officer’s directions and charged at the officer, who deployed pepper spray at the subject that was unsuccessful in subduing him. Howard attacked the officer, and while they were both on the ground the subject repeatedly punched the officer in the head and strangled him. The officer fired his service weapon, fatally injuring the subject. He was pronounced dead on scene.
Clifford was treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and discharged later Thursday night. He is on administrative leave per standard Hartford Police Department policy.
Howard’s body was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death and for additional testing such as toxicology.
State police detectives are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, including interviewing witnesses, reviewing available video such as police-worn body-camera video, and processing the crime scene.
Police will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.