Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171
The Attorney General’s Office today announced it has concluded its review of the officer-involved shooting incident that occurred on August 25, 2021, in Rutland, Vermont. The Attorney General’s Office has declined to prosecute Rutland City Police Department Corporal Christopher Rose for charges related to the fatal shooting of Jonathan Mansilla. Based on the facts and circumstances and consistent with Vermont law, the Attorney General’s Office has concluded that the actions of Corporal Rose were justified. In reaching its decision, the Office reviewed all materials provided by the Vermont State Police, who conducted the investigation.
At approximately 1:12pm on August 25, 2021, a witness called 9-1-1 to report that someone had backed into their vehicle in the parking lot of the Goodwill located on North Main Street (US Route 7) in Rutland. The witness asked the operator of the vehicle—later determined to be Jonathan Mansilla—for his information and Mr. Mansilla fled the scene. The witness took photos of the vehicle and provided the make, model, and registration number to law enforcement. Corporal Christopher Rose was assigned and responded to the scene of the accident. Rutland City Police Department contacted the Vermont State Police and requested a “Be-On-Lookout” for Mr. Mansilla’s vehicle.
Around 2:13pm, Rutland County Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Kevin Geno, who was alerted to the location of Mr. Mansilla’s vehicle by the hit-and-run witness, began pursuing Mr. Mansilla’s vehicle and located it traveling north on US Route 7 near the Clarendon rest area. Lieutenant Geno initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle and the vehicle pulled over, but as Lieutenant Geno exited his police cruiser to approach, the vehicle accelerated and continued north on US Route 7. Lieutenant Geno pursued the vehicle and advised the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department that he was engaged in a pursuit at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour. Lieutenant Geno observed the vehicle fail to stop for a traffic light at the intersection of Route 7 and Route 103. Ultimately, Lieutenant Geno lost sight of the vehicle in the vicinity of US Route 7 and North Shrewsbury Road.
At approximately 2:17pm, Mr. Mansilla drove his vehicle into the driveway of a residence located on North Shrewsbury Road. Mr. Mansilla did not know anyone who resided at this residence. Mr. Mansilla parked in front of a garage located on the property. One of the residents of the property asked Mr. Mansilla if he needed assistance. Mr. Mansilla responded that he did not need help and that he was changing a tire. The resident observed Mr. Mansilla pacing around the driveway, screaming, and talking on a cell phone. Home security video from the residence showed Mr. Mansilla bent down near the front left side of his vehicle as Rutland County Sherriff’s Lieutenant James Bennick pulled his fully marked police cruiser into the driveway around 2:28pm. Lieutenant Bennick had been following the pursuit on the radio and was searching in the area that Mr. Mansilla was last seen. When Lieutenant Bennick pulled into the driveway, Mr. Mansilla had the vehicle on a jack and was attempting to change the front left tire. Mr. Mansilla got in his vehicle, drove the vehicle off the jack, and sped past Lieutenant Bennick over the lawn and back out onto the roadway.
Moments later, Rutland County Sherriff’s deputies began pursuing Mr. Mansilla’s vehicle on Cold River Road. Corporal Rose, who had been monitoring the situation on his radio, advised dispatch that if the pursuit was still just a result of the prior incident, that the sheriff’s department should let the vehicle go to avoid putting the public in unnecessary danger. Ultimately, the deputies decided not to continue the pursuit due to safety concerns.
Later, at approximately 2:34pm, Corporal Rose happened to come across Mr. Mansilla’s vehicle on Allen Street. At that point Corporal Rose observed Mr. Mansilla cross the center line and pass him at a high rate of speed. Mr. Mansilla then went left of center, almost hitting Corporal Rose. Corporal Rose then turned his police cruiser around in order to pursue Mr. Mansilla. Upon catching up with Mr. Mansilla at the intersection of Allen Street and US Route 7, Corporal Rose observed that Mr. Mansilla had apparently crashed into the back of a UPS truck. As depicted on his cruiser video, Corporal Rose observed Mr. Mansilla outside of his vehicle, then lean back into his vehicle to grab something. Corporal Rose could not see what Mr. Mansilla grabbed from the vehicle. Corporal Rose then observed Mr. Mansilla run in the direction of the McDonald’s located on the corner of Allen Street and US Route 7.
While Corporal Rose began pursuing Mr. Mansilla on foot, Corporal Rose yelled to Mr. Mansilla ordering him to stop. Corporal Rose also identified himself as a city police officer. Mr. Mansilla entered the north entrance of the McDonald’s at approximately 2:34:54pm. Corporal Rose entered the north entrance of the McDonald’s approximately seven seconds later.
After Mr. Mansilla entered the McDonald’s dining area, he appeared to reach for the locking mechanism on the door but was unable to activate it. There were at least two families in the dining area, including two small children ages two and seven. Mr. Mansilla then ran toward the front counter, down a hallway, and into the men’s restroom. At the same time, Corporal Rose entered the dining area and appeared to be utilizing his portable police radio.
Mr. Mansilla ran directly into the men’s restroom at approximately 2:35pm. Corporal Rose arrived at the men’s restroom door approximately seven seconds later and immediately attempted to open the main door to the restroom by pushing on it with his left hand. Corporal Rose was unable to open the door due to apparent resistance from the other side of the door. Approximately six seconds later, Corporal Rose removed his hand from the restroom door and began to walk away from the door. At the same time, Corporal Rose appeared once again to be utilizing his portable radio. Corporal Rose then turned around and reapproached the restroom door, again pushing on the door with his left hand this time apparently without resistance. He then backed away from the door, clipped his radio into his belt, and placed his right hand on his holstered firearm.
Corporal Rose then entered the restroom with his firearm drawn. When Corporal Rose entered, Mr. Mansilla was in a locked stall. Corporal Rose identified himself again as an officer and commanded Mr. Mansilla to show him his hands. Mr. Mansilla made no response. Approximately 9 seconds later, Mr. Mansilla abruptly exited the stall and ran towards Corporal Rose, while screaming, with his arm raised around head level and carrying in his hand what Corporal Rose believed to be a weapon. As Mr. Mansilla ran toward Corporal Rose, Corporal Rose fired three rounds, two of which struck Mr. Mansilla in the chest as they both stumbled out of the restroom and into the hallway. Mr. Mansilla came to rest on the floor of the hallway, fatally injured from the gunshot wounds. It was later determined that Mr. Mansilla was not armed when he was shot and that the object he had in his hand was a cell phone. Corporal Rose’s account of the events as they occurred in the bathroom was corroborated by an independent eyewitness.
Mr. Mansilla’s autopsy report stated that his cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the chest. Investigators later learned that at the time of the incident, Mr. Mansilla was on probation out of Connecticut for enticing a minor, a violation of probation was pending, and according to the New Haven Probation Office, Mr. Mansilla had absconded from supervision.
Under Vermont law at the time of the incident, a person who kills or wounds another “in the just and necessary defense of his own life…shall be guiltless.” 13 V.S.A. § 2305(1). In Vermont, self-defense is justified when (1) the defendant was not the initial aggressor; (2) the defendant was justified in using a reasonable amount of force against another; and (3) he reasonably believed (a) that he was in immediate danger of unlawful bodily harm from his adversary and (b) that the use of such force was necessary to avoid this danger
In this case, Corporal Rose reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm when Mr. Mansilla abruptly exited the bathroom stall and ran toward him with what Corporal Rose believed to be a weapon. Under these facts and circumstances and consistent with Vermont law, the actions of the officer were justified. The Attorney General’s Office has declined to file charges against Corporal Rose.
The lawfulness of this shooting was also analyzed under 13 VSA §2305(3), which became effective after the incident on October 1, 2021. Although not yet enacted at the time of this incident, Corporal Rose’s use of deadly force against Mr. Mansilla would likely have been justified under amended 13 V.S.A. § 2305(3) and 20 V.S.A. § 2368(c). Once inside the restroom, Corporal Rose announced his presence and tried to get Mr. Mansilla to show Corporal Rose his hands. Mr. Mansilla not only refused to show his hands but charged directly at Corporal Rose in an aggressive manner with what appeared to Corporal Rose to be a weapon in his hand, giving Corporal Rose only a split second in which to respond. It does not appear that Corporal Rose’s decision to enter the restroom to see if anyone was in danger was unreasonable, given the information that he possessed at the time. Corporal Rose had just 1) observed Mr. Mansilla put his and other people’s safety in jeopardy, 2) observed that Mr. Mansilla was willing to flee from multiple officers throughout the day at any cost, and 3) noted that Mr. Mansilla could have possessed a weapon and did not know if someone else was inside the restroom. Therefore, under the totality of these circumstances, during and leading up to the shooting, a reasonable officer in Corporal Rose’s situation would have concluded that there was no alternative to the use of deadly force to prevent death or serious bodily injury.