Family Sues Police, Town Over Brattleboro Shooting

01/21/02 12:00AM



(Host)
The parents of a man who was killed by Brattleboro police last month say they're suing the town in order to find out the truth about what happened to their son. The family and their lawyers announced their lawsuit Monday afternoon in Brattleboro.

VPR's John Dillon was there.


(Dillon)
Paul and Joanne Woodward say they've hit a stone wall in their effort to find out what happened the day their son was shot. On Monday, they came to the town where their son Robert was killed. They said they came for information, and for justice.

Thirty-seven-year old Robert Woodward acted distraught and agitated where he came to a church in West Brattleboro last month. Police were called and two officers shot Woodward seven times.

Woodward's parents and sister have now filed suit against the town of Brattleboro and the two officers who shot Woodward on December 2.

Joanne Woodward, Robert's mother, says the family still grieves. She says her son dedicated his life to helping the handicapped kids and others less fortunate.

(Joanne Woodward) "The week before he was killed, he took one of the little boys he was working with to Springfield¿. He took them to see Harry Potter¿and they stood in line for three hours. That's the kind of person he was¿. When he died, a part of all us died. We may never know all of what happened, or why. But we need to know as much of the truth as we can."

(Dillon)
The family's suit charges that the town failed to adequately train the police in the use of force. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the town and the two police officers.

Joel Faxon is a lawyer from Connecticut who is one of the family's attorneys. He says the suit may not have been necessary if state and local officials had provided the information that the family seeks. He says by filing the court action, the family can use subpoena power to get police documents and autopsy reports:

(Faxon) "Given that we've been completely stymied in our attempts to pursue everything, we really don't have a choice at this point."

(Dillon)
Attorney General William Sorrell has promised a full disclosure once he finishes investigating the death. But Sorrell says he can't release anything until the investigation is completed.

The family doesn't want to wait. Paul Woodward, Robert's father, says the family is more interested in the truth than in any money that they may collect from the lawsuit.

(Paul Woodward) "At this point, we want the truth. That's about it right now. We want the truth to come out right now, and we want some sort of justice."

(Dillon)
The Vermont State Police are investigating the shooting. The family's lawyers are concerned that the police have prejudged the outcome of the investigation. They want the governor to appoint a special prosecutor or independent commission to investigate Robert Woodward's death.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon in Brattleboro.
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