Crime and Justice

2 dead in Woodstock shooting that shuttered town for hours

Maj. Dan Trudeau, commander of the Vermont State Police criminal division, speaks to reporters outside the police station about a shooting in Woodstock on Tuesday, June 14. He held up a photo of Jay Wilson, 45, who is suspected in the shooting that left one man dead. Wilson was found dead on the scene late Tuesday night. Photo by Riley Robinson/VTDigger

Updated on Wednesday at 1:27 a.m.

WOODSTOCK — The suspect in a fatal shooting that left the town on lockdown for hours Tuesday was found dead late that night in the downtown residence in which he had barricaded himself, authorities said.

Members of the Vermont State Police Tactical Services Unit discovered the body of Jay Wilson, 45, of Woodstock, while searching the house after 11 p.m. following an hourslong effort to persuade Wilson to leave the residence, Vermont State Police said in a press release issued early Wednesday morning. 

Police said Wilson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Members of the tactical services unit reported hearing a gunshot when they entered the house, according to the release.

Jay Wilson. Courtesy Vermont State Police

At a press conference Tuesday evening in Woodstock, Vermont State Police Maj. Dan Trudeau said authorities believe Wilson shot and killed a man thought to be his mother’s friend. Police did not release the victim’s identity. Both Wilson and the shooting victim were being transported to the Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Burlington for autopsies.

Wilson’s mother, June Wilson, owns the Slayton Terrace home where the shooting took place, according to police and Woodstock property records.

The incident began around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday when two Woodstock police officers responded to a reported shooting outside 13 Slayton Terrace, according to the state police. The first officer to arrive at the scene found a deceased man in the driveway. The officer was fired upon from the vicinity of the home, police said, and returned fire. It was unclear at the time whether the shooter was injured.

One of the officers saw Wilson in the doorway of the house, according to Trudeau. 

The two officers took cover and called additional officers to respond. Police set up a perimeter around the scene, Trudeau said, but police thought it was possible Wilson had exited the house before the additional officers arrived, leading to a shelter-in-place order. 

State police said they would release the name of the Woodstock police officer involved in the exchange of fire on Wednesday. “Per standard protocol, when the Vermont State Police investigation is complete, the case will be turned over to the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the State's Attorney's Office for independent reviews of the police officer's use of force,” state police said in the Wednesday morning release.

According to Trudeau, Wilson was also suspected of firing at the Woodstock police officer.

Authorities had for hours urged residents in the area to shelter in place with their doors locked while Wilson’s whereabouts were in question. Police had not confirmed whether Wilson had left the residence until they searched the house. No one else was found inside. 

“Precautionary measures that had been in place for residents of the area have been lifted,” state police said in the early Wednesday morning press release. Police said “the area has been cleared and deemed safe.”

A Vermont State Police armored vehicle responds to a shooting in Woodstock on Tuesday, June 14. Photo by Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger

An earlier press release had indicated that, in addition to the Tactical Services Unit, the state police’s Crisis Negotiation Unit was operating in the area Tuesday afternoon. 

At the press conference at about 6:15 p.m., police said they had been unable to reach the suspect by landline or cellphone. They were working on a search warrant to enter the home, which state police spokesperson Adam Silverman characterized as standard procedure in such situations.

Around 6:40 p.m., Vermont State Police could be heard identifying themselves on a loudspeaker in the Slayton Terrace neighborhood in an apparent attempt to communicate with the suspect.

For hours, police attempted to communicate with Wilson and anyone else who could have been inside the house. “After those efforts were unsuccessful, the Vermont State Police deployed a number of alternative tactics, such as devices that emit a percussive noise and a bright light, and then irritant gas, designed to encourage an occupant of a residence to come out or make contact with the police,” police said in the Wednesday morning release. “Those approaches also produced no response from Wilson.”

“We do not want to see anyone get hurt,” police said on the loudspeaker. “Please come out with your hands up.”

Law enforcement block the entrance from Route 4 to Lincoln Road, which heads to Slayton Terrace, on Tuesday, June 14. Photo by Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger

A person who was working in the area Tuesday afternoon told VTDigger that she had heard six to eight gunshots around 1:30 p.m. She said she would only be identified by her first name, Joan. 

“We were in the yard and we heard some ‘pop, pop, pop, pop,’” she said. “We thought it could be a nail gun. … We continued to work, but then we heard sirens — and more sirens.”

She said police told her to get inside. “I did feel scared with everything that’s going on in the world.”

Police closed off the entrance to Lincoln Street, which connects downtown Woodstock to Slayton Terrace, at its entrance from Central Street, part of Route 4. The residential neighborhood sits perched above a stretch of businesses including Mangalista and Melaza Bistro. 

Heavy-duty tactical vehicles headed up Lincoln Street several times over the course of the afternoon, including the Tactical Services Unit at about 4:30 p.m.

Jess Abston, who owns the Who Is Sylvia? clothing store downtown, said she was loading up her car in front of the shop around 1:40 p.m. when the owner of a nearby coffee shop instructed the patrons to come inside from the patio because of reports of a shooting. She got in her car and left as “all these police cars were rolling into town … very surreal,” she said in a text message. 

Ken Macdonald, who lives nearby on High Street, said he saw two police officers running through his backyard with guns drawn earlier in the afternoon, sometime before 2 p.m. Another neighbor on the street, Andrea Sand, said she heard reports of a shooting from people she knew. She later looked out the window and saw a state trooper with a “big bullet proof vest on” getting something from his vehicle.

“It was quite a sight to see,” she said.

Virtually all downtown businesses appeared to be closed as of 4 p.m.

Members of the Vermont State Police Crime Scene Search Team are expected to process the scene into Wednesday.

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