By Guy Page
The Ludlow police officer who pulled the trigger and shot a suspect in the head in Ludlow Monday after a fellow officer saw the suspect with a firearm and cried ‘gun’ is a 21-year-old recent Vermont Police Academy graduate on field training.
The officer who fired his department-issued handgun is identified as Zachary Paul, 21, who joined the Ludlow Police Department in July following his graduation from the Vermont Police Academy, state police say. Paul was on field training and was accompanied by his field training officer, Jeffrey Warfle, 41, who has served with Ludlow police for two and half years.
The man who was shot, 35-year-old Michael Mills of Cavendish, remains hospitalized at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Mills had rammed the police cruiser with his car twice before fleeing and then crashing his own car. Mills was shot while in his car.
State police say the incident started at about 6:45 p.m. Monday when Mills began making a series of what would eventually become more than two dozen 911 calls during which he made various complaints, threats and suicidal statements. Police in the area began seeking Mills, and a brief encounter led to a short pursuit with Ludlow police, whom Mills was able to elude. Later, Mills was reported to be driving erratically in Ludlow, including in the parking lot of the police department.
According to a review of evidence including video from body-worn cameras, two officers in a single cruiser attempted to stop Mills at about 9:30 p.m., but he drove off, and the officers followed. During the ensuing chase, Mills stopped his vehicle multiple times and at one point reversed his car and rammed the police cruiser before driving away. The pursuit ended at about 9:36 p.m. in the area of 451 South Hill Road when Mills drove off the road and into a tree.
Officers attempted to speak to and calm Mills. When he failed to step out of the car, one of the officers approached the vehicle and opened the front passenger door, at which point the officer yelled “Gun!” several times. The second officer then fired a single round from his department-issued sidearm, striking Mills in the head. Police recovered a semiautomatic handgun from Mills’s vehicle. Mills did not appear to have fired a round during the encounter, but a subsequent examination of the gun indicated that it might have malfunctioned.
Mills received first aid on scene and was brought by ambulance to Springfield Hospital before being airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
Neither of the officers was injured during the incident. Per Ludlow Police Department policy, the two officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. The Vermont State Police will release their identities as the investigation continues.
According to the Ludlow Police Department Facebook page, Paul graduated from the VPA on July 15. His hiring was greeted by 70 comments, all of them positive and most of them well-wishers who seemed to know him.
“You are a very kind, caring, upstanding young man and the community is so lucky to have you as one of our officers,” one commenter said. “Thank you for protecting us all. Be safe.”
Categories: Police Reports