Rutland County States Attorney James Mongeon and Attorney General William Sorrell announced last week that they have completed separate reviews of the police-shooting incident that occurred in 2008 in Proctor.
Both offices have concluded, as a matter of law, that Vermont State Police Sgt. Thomas Mozzer was legally justified in the use of deadly force when he discharged his firearm at John Walters. The legal standard for the use of deadly force is whether the officer reasonably believed that he or a third party was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, and that deadly force was necessary to respond to that threat.
The incident took place on Nov. 19, 2008, at 9 River St. in Proctor.
State Police were responding to a 911 call placed by a neighbor of John Walters who reported that, according to a witness, Walters appeared intoxicated after having consumed alcohol and prescription medications, and was going to get on his motorcycle and go for a ride.
Mozzer was the first officer to arrive at the scene in response to the 911 call. He met briefly with a member of the Walters family outside the home, and then entered the home to check on John Walters' welfare.
Once inside the home, Mozzer encountered Walters in the bedroom holding a handgun. After several attempts to try to talk Walters into leaving the gun and coming out of the house, Mozzer attempted to take Walters into custody, which resulted at first in a scuffle, and ultimately in an exchange of gunfire when Walters pointed the handgun directly at Sgt. Mozzer after repeated commands to put the gun down. Walters was injured as a result of the shooting. He was eventually charged with Attempted Murder and is being prosecuted by the Rutland County State's Attorney.
Under the facts of this case, the Rutland County State's Attorney and the Attorney General's Office concluded that Mozzer was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired at John Walters who was holding a handgun pointed in his direction, despite commands to put it down. Given the serious threat, Mozzer's response of using deadly force was reasonable and justified