BRATTLEBORO — Two Vermont State Police troopers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, filed after one fired a beanbag projectile at a man who was reportedly under the influence of drugs, screaming and holding a bloody saw atop a Newfane homeowner’s roof.
Zachary Trocki and Ryan Wood were arraigned in Windham County Superior criminal court almost a year after an incident June 17, 2022, in which Trocki, trying with Wood to get 61-year-old Marshall Dean to drop the saw, shot a projectile shortly before the man fell about 15 feet to the ground, according to an affidavit.
“Essentially, we deployed a beanbag on a guy armed with a saw blade, high on multiple drugs, who was on someone’s roof,” Wood told a supervisor after, state police Detective Sgt. Samuel Truex reported in his affidavit.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office filed charges against the troopers earlier this month for both reckless endangerment and simple assault — but Windham County Judge Katherine Hayes threw out the latter count last week.
“The affidavit fails to establish that the shooting of the beanbag caused Mr. Dean’s fall and injury,” Hayes said in her ruling.
Court paperwork released Tuesday included a report of “30 seconds to a minute” between the shot and the fall.
“The beanbag appears to strike the male based upon his movements,” the affidavit said of body camera video. “The male can then be seen getting down onto his knees and crawls to the west edge of the roof where he falls out of camera view.”
The judge told the state Tuesday it could refile the simple assault charges, but only with written evidence rather than submission of the video.
“We have many, many, many, many cases to review,” Hayes said, “and to start getting videos with all of our affidavits and cases would be quite overwhelming.”
Police responded to a Newfane home along Route 30 around 2 a.m. June 17 after a resident called 911 to report “a guy is destroying his house and smashing windows,” according to the affidavit.
Once there, the troopers were told Dean was high on cocaine and heroin, according to court paperwork.
Wood, however, suspected the man instead had used “bath salts” or methamphetamine due to “the way in which he was acting,” the 36-year-old sergeant says in the affidavit. “The hallucination side of it.”
Body camera video recorded the troopers asking Dean multiple times to drop the saw before Trocki was heard loading a beanbag round into a shotgun, court paperwork said.
“I felt like he was an imminent threat to the safety of the crowd of people and potentially to Sergeant Wood and myself,” Trocki, a 29-year-old trooper, says in the affidavit. “I also felt that there was a threat of a victim in the house that (Dean) might have caused serious bodily injury to, based on the amount of blood that was on him.”
Once apprehended, Dean — who authorities said was the only one injured in the incident — was taken to the hospital and last interviewed on March 20 at the Groundworks Collaborative, a Brattleboro shelter.
“Marshall said he can’t remember anything and doesn’t remember anything about the day he fell off the roof,” Truex wrote in his affidavit.
The Attorney General’s Office, issuing a press release after the arraignment, continued to point to the shot for “causing Mr. Dean to fall from the roof that he was standing on and sustain life-threatening injuries.”
The press release noted that Dean “appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis while also under the influence of substances” and “holding a handsaw.” But, the statement continued, “There is no evidence, based on body camera videos, that Mr. Dean posed an imminent threat to the lives of the troopers or any other person.”
“Under Vermont law,” the press release said, “every person has a right to be free from excessive use of force by officers acting under authority of the state, and a law enforcement officer’s authority to use physical force is a serious responsibility that shall be exercised judiciously and with respect for human rights and dignity and for the sanctity of every human life.”
Members of the Vermont Troopers’ Association, which has denounced the charges, attended the arraignment with several rows of supporters.
“I think there’s enormous harm to charging police officers with crimes in situations where the facts are either unclear or simply inadequate to support a criminal charge,” Wood’s attorney, David Sleigh, said after the arraignment. “I think that’s what they’re doing here.”
The court has released Trocki and Wood, who are on paid administrative duty at the Westminster barracks, police said. The reckless endangerment charge is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.