Police “reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm”
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office and the Orange County State’s Attorney’s Office today announced the conclusions of their independent reviews of the fatal officer-involved shooting incident that occurred on July 19, 2022, in Brattleboro. Attorney General Susanne Young and Orange County State’s Attorney Dickson Corbett have declined to prosecute Brattleboro Police Officer Ryder Carbone and Vermont State Police Detective Sergeants Jesse Robson and Samuel Truex for charges related to the fatal shooting of Matthew Davis. State’s Attorney Corbett agreed to conduct an independent review of the investigation, as the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office recused itself.
Based on the facts and circumstances and consistent with Vermont law, Attorney General Young and State’s Attorney Corbett have independently concluded that the use of force by Officer Carbone and Sergeants Robson and Truex was objectively reasonable and justified. Under the totality of the circumstances during and leading up to the discharge of their firearms, a reasonable officer in the situation of Officer Carbone, Sergeant Robson, and Sergeant Truex would have concluded that there was no alternative but to use deadly force to prevent the death or serious bodily injury of Sergeants Truex or Robson. In reaching their decisions, the Attorney General’s Office and State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed all materials provided by the Vermont State Police, who conducted the investigation.
On July 18, at approximately 11:30 p.m., the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) contacted the Brattleboro Police Department (Brattleboro PD) requesting assistance locating Mary Anderson. The day prior, family members had reported Ms. Anderson missing and foul play was suspected on the part of her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Davis. MSP notified Brattleboro PD that Ms. Anderson’s phone connected to a Wi-Fi network somewhere in Brattleboro, Vermont. MSP produced and disseminated a missing person bulletin for Ms. Anderson that included information about Mr. Davis. The bulletin noted recent “concerning incidents”, including a possible mental health breakdown of Mr. Davis on July 9, 2022. The bulletin also detailed that Mr. Davis has a Massachusetts Board of Probation record that includes Assault to Kill, Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, and other “similar incidents” on his history.
On July 19, 2022, at approximately 12:55 a.m., Brattleboro PD located Ms. Anderson deceased inside her vehicle on Elliot Street in Brattleboro with a suspected gunshot wound.
Brattleboro PD requested assistance with their investigation from Vermont State Police (VSP) which had evolved into a suspected homicide investigation. Mr. Davis was suspected in Ms. Anderson’s initial disappearance and was a person of interest in the suspected homicide.
Later that evening, at approximately 7:35 p.m., a VSP officer observed a male matching Mr. Davis’ description walking eastbound on Western Avenue (also known as Marlboro Road) and Route 9. The officer, in an unmarked vehicle, continued to slowly follow and drive by Mr. Davis while waiting for other units to arrive. At one point, Mr. Davis apparently noticed the blue light in the officer’s window. Mr. Davis then ran out of the officer’s sight on to Bonnyvale Road.
At approximately 7:44 p.m., Brattleboro Police Officer Carbone arrived in the area and the VSP officer oriented him to where Mr. Davis was last seen. The officers requested the assistance of a K-9 Unit. Officer Carbone relocated his cruiser to effectively shut down Bonnyvale Road, and then exited with his shotgun. Meanwhile, VSP officers, including Sergeant Truex, held an elevated position of cover over a culvert on Bonnyvale Road.
Responding officers shouted, “Bring the dog” and informed Officer Carbone that Mr. Davis was under the bridge below them. One of the officers stated that they believe Mr. Davis heard them requesting a K-9 because Mr. Davis began yelling something to the effect of “send the dog, get the dog!” The officer reported that Mr. Davis, while in the culvert, was holding an object up with both hands in front of his body. The officer announced they were the State Police, as did other officers, and commanded Mr. Davis to come out of the culvert with his hands visible.
Mr. Davis did not comply, instead responding, “F**k you, come get me”, and making growling noises. At approximately 7:46:02 p.m., Mr. Davis exited the culvert and ran into the woods towards All Souls Church. Officer Carbone ordered him to freeze, but Mr. Davis did not comply. Officers ran off the bridge and entered the wood line heading south from Bonnyvale Road.
At approximately 7:46:17 p.m., Mr. Davis was ordered to “Stop right there,” but he continued to flee. Officer Carbone, Sergeants Truex and Robson, and a VSP officer pursued Mr. Davis up a wooded embankment and through the woods. The pursuing officers ultimately confronted Mr. Davis in the wood line. One of the officers yelled “He’s got a knife,” and Officer Carbone directed “back up, back up.” Sergeant Robson observed Mr. Davis holding a knife in his right hand.
At this point, Mr. Davis was standing in a stationary position behind a couple of large trees but facing toward the officers who followed him into the woods. Officers ordered Mr. Davis approximately ten times to “Drop the knife,” “Drop it,” and “Put it down.” Mr. Davis replied “No” approximately six times. During the confrontation, Sergeant Robson heard Sergeant Truex ask Mr. Davis, “Why did you kill her?” but did not hear a response. Sergeant Truex saw a knife in Mr. Davis’ right hand.
Mr. Davis then ran out from behind the trees with his knife displayed and charged downhill toward Sergeant Truex and Sergeant Robson. At the same time, someone yelled “get (them, ‘em, or him)!”
At approximately 7:47:16 p.m., approximately one minute after Mr. Davis was first ordered to stop, the first of several gunshots was heard. A VSP officer on the scene explained that Mr. Davis made it approximately 15 feet from law enforcement before any shots were fired. Officer Carbone’s shotgun was seen on camera being discharged three times. Sergeants Robson and Truex also fired multiple rounds after Mr. Davis started running in their direction while holding the knife. Mr. Davis was approximately 8 feet from Sergeant Truex when he fell after being shot, and 12.6 feet away from Sergeant Robson.
The last gunshot was heard at approximately 7:47:19 p.m., three seconds after the first shot. Brattleboro paramedics arrived on the scene and pronounced Mr. Davis deceased at approximately 7:55 p.m. The knife was located on the ground by Mr. Davis’ left armpit.
Pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 2305(3), under the totality of the circumstances, Sergeants Robson and Truex reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm at the hands of Mr. Davis, and they were justified in using deadly force to defend themselves. Similarly, Officer Carbone was justified in using deadly force to protect the lives of Sergeant Truex and Sergeant Robson. Under Vermont law, an officer may use deadly force to repel an imminent threat to cause death or serious bodily injury when the officer objectively and reasonably believes that a person has the present ability, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury. 20 V.S.A. §§ 2368(a)(4) and 2068(c)(1)(A). Furthermore, the use of deadly force is deemed necessary when, given the totality of the circumstances, an objectively reasonable officer in the same situation would conclude that there was no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force that would prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person. 20 V.S.A. § 2368(c)(2).
Officer Carbone and Sergeants Robson and Truex arrived at the shooting scene knowing that MPD previously solicited assistance from Vermont law enforcement in locating Mr. Davis’ missing ex-girlfriend, Mary Anderson. The three officers were aware that foul play was suspected on the part of Mr. Davis, who had a criminal history including Assault to Kill, and that Ms. Anderson’s deceased body, with an apparent gunshot wound, was located inside her truck on the morning of July 19, 2022.
At the time Mr. Davis charged Sergeants Robson and Truex, Mr. Davis was in an elevated position and there was a steep embankment behind the officers, making a safe retreat impossible under the circumstances. When Mr. Davis, rather than surrender or continue to flee, suddenly charged toward the nearby officers with his knife, there was no opportunity for the three officers to obtain less than lethal alternatives to their firearms.
Therefore, under the totality of these circumstances during and leading up to the shooting, a reasonable officer in the positions of Officer Carbone and Sergeants Robson and Truex would have concluded that there was no other alternative to using deadly force to prevent death or serious bodily.