The Attorney General’s Office and the Grand Isle County State’s Attorney’s Office today announced the conclusions of their independent reviews of the non-fatal officer-involved shooting incident that occurred on April 20, 2023, in Morrisville, Vermont. Both Attorney General Charity Clark and Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Douglas DiSabito, who reviewed the matter for the Lamoille County State’s Attorney’s Office, have declined to prosecute Morristown Police Department Officer Brian Tomlinson for his actions related to the non-fatal use of deadly force against Henry Lovell. In reaching their decisions, the Attorney General’s Office and the Grand Isle County State’s Attorney’s Office reviewed all of the materials provided by Vermont State Police, who conducted the investigation.
On April 20, 2023, at approximately 8:45 p.m., the Morristown Police Department received a 911 call from a person who reported they were being held hostage by Henry Lovell, who was armed with a firearm. Officer Brian Tomlinson picked up the call and responded to the scene. While assessing the area around the residence, Officer Tomlinson saw two people walking side-by-side down a dark driveway about 61 feet away. Officer Tomlinson recognized Mr. Lovell, who was known to Officer Tomlinson from prior police encounters, and noticed that Mr. Lovell was holding a shotgun in his right hand.
Upon seeing Officer Tomlinson, Mr. Lovell proceeded to walk towards Officer Tomlinson. Officer Tomlinson repeatedly ordered Mr. Lovell to put the gun on the ground and stop, but Mr. Lovell refused. Officer Tomlinson then moved backwards to try and take cover. As Officer Tomlinson went to grab his gun from its holster, Mr. Lovell lowered his shotgun and shot at Officer Tomlinson while standing approximately 50-61 feet away.
Officer Tomlinson took cover behind a vehicle and fired back at Mr. Lovell in self-defense. Mr. Lovell continued to pursue Officer Tomlinson and walked toward where Officer Tomlinson was taking cover. As he got closer to Officer Tomlinson, Mr. Lovell fired a second shot at Officer Tomlinson, and Officer Tomlinson returned fire. During the shooting, the person who was observed walking with Mr. Lovell ran into the house and locked the door.
Mr. Lovell then fled the scene, running into a nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) building, where he was observed trying to remove an object that had jammed his shotgun. Mr. Lovell proceeded to have an argument with various patrons because he brought a gun into the building. Seeing that Mr. Lovell’s gun was inoperable, a VFW patron managed to take the shotgun away from Mr. Lovell, disarming him. Subsequently, Mr. Lovell left the building without the shotgun. Thereafter, a multi-agency law enforcement search began, which did not end until three days later when Mr. Lovell was arrested.
The investigation conducted by Vermont State Police revealed that prior to the shooting, Mr. Lovell held a person against their will and demanded at gunpoint that the person drive Mr. Lovell to the U.S. border. The person’s sworn statement to law enforcement corroborated Officer Tomlinson’s account of the incident, reporting that Mr. Lovell had a single-shot shotgun, pointed the gun at the officer, and fired at the officer, unprovoked, while Officer Tomlinson was trying to talk to Mr. Lovell and deescalate the situation. Officer Tomlinson’s account of the incident was also corroborated by a 911 call placed by this person, the recording of which partially captured some of the events leading up to the shooting. Officer Tomlinson did not activate his body camera until after this event; however, the investigation contained ample evidence, including the 911 recording and eyewitness testimony that reconstructed and corroborated what took place that evening. Neither Officer Tomlinson nor the person held against their will appeared to have been physically injured as a result of this incident.
Pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 2305(3), under the totality of the circumstances, Officer Tomlinson reasonably believed that he and those around him were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm and was, therefore, justified in using deadly force to defend himself and others.
Under Vermont law, an officer may use deadly force to repel an imminent threat to cause death or serious bodily injury when the officer objectively and reasonably believes that a person has the present ability, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury. 20 V.S.A. §§ 2368(a)(4) and 2068(c)(1)(A). Furthermore, the use of deadly force is deemed necessary when, given the totality of the circumstances, an objectively reasonable officer in the same situation would conclude that there was no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force that would prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person. 20 V.S.A. § 2368(c)(2).
Under the totality of these circumstances during and leading up to the shooting, an objectively reasonable officer in Officer Tomlinson’s position would have concluded that there was no other reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force to prevent his death or serious bodily injury or that of the person who was being held against his will.
Lauren Jandl, Attorney General’s Office, Chief of Staff, 802-595-8679
Douglas DiSabito, Grand Isle County State’s Attorney, 802-372-5422