By Mark Davis
on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 8:53 AM
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Vermont State Police
Burlington Police Officer Ethan Thibault
A Burlington police officer who fatally shot a mentally ill man in 2013 has been charged with domestic assault after a woman came forward and accused him of abuse, Vermont State Police said.
Ethan Thibault, 37, is scheduled to appear in Chittenden Superior Court on Thursday to answer to the charge.
Burlington police asked Vermont State Police on Monday night to investigate Thibault after a woman obtained a restraining order against him, state police said.
She alleged prior assaults, the most recent of which occurred on Saturday morning in Hinesburg, state police said. Thibault, a Hinesburg resident, voluntarily met with investigators in the state police barracks in Williston. He posted $750 bail.
Burlington police said that Thibault has been placed on paid leave. The department said it will conduct an internal investigation once the criminal probe has concluded.
“Any time an officer is alleged to have committed domestic assault I take that extremely seriously,” Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo told reporters Thursday morning. “If this turns out to be true, then of course I’m disappointed ... that a police officer would do that having taken an oath to protect against that.”
In November 2013, Thibault, a 15-year police veteran, responded to a New North End home for a report from a mother that her mentally ill son was agitated and destroying property. Two minutes after arriving on the scene alongside Cpl. Brent Navari, Thibault opened fire on Wayne Brunette, hitting him twice. Thibault and Navari said that Brunette, 49, had approached them with a shovel and refused their commands to stop.
The officers never knew Brunette's name before the shooting. Thibault had been alerted that he would be dealing with a "mental health issue" by a dispatcher that night. He had undergone training in interacting with people with mental illness two days before the shooting.
Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan and Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell cleared Thibault and Navari of criminal wrongdoing.
Brunette's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Thibault and others in U.S. District Court.