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News
Police who fired fatal shots identified

The names of three officers from the Rutland City Police Department and one officer from the Rutland Town Police Department who were involved in the fatal shooting of the former Rutland mayor’s son on Tuesday were released by the Vermont State Police on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Vermont State Police, the four officers they named on Wednesday are those who fired their service weapons on Tuesday in downtown Rutland.

The three Rutland Police Department officers are Sgt. Adam Lucia, who has been with the department for seven years; Sgt. Kenneth Mosher, who has been with the department for 12 years; and Cpl. Elias Anderson, who has been with the department for four years.

Rutland Town Police Deputy Chief Ted Washburn, who has been with the department for six years, was the fourth officer.

Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said none of the officers had been involved in shootings in the past. Rutland Town Police Chief Ed Dumas could not be reached on Wednesday.

Christopher G. Louras, 33, of Rutland, the son of former Rutland Mayor Christopher C. Louras, died during the incident, which is being investigated by the Vermont State Police and which will be reviewed by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. Following protocol, the Rutland and Rutland Town police departments have placed the four officers on administrative leave while the investigation is being conducted.

Kilcullen said he hoped the loss of those officers for the length of the investigation would not affect the service of the police department to the city.

“Through the support of those not directly impacted, I think we’ll be able to meet our staffing needs,” he said.

According to Kilcullen, the last fatal officer-involved shooting in Rutland was almost 25 years ago, on Aug. 23, 1995, on Prospect Street.

A 2013 Rutland Herald story about the retirement of Detective Cpl. Ray LaMoria said LaMoria was one of three city police officers who shot and killed Brian P. Pockette, 27, of Rutland. Police said Pockette yelled at officers to shoot him and fired a gun through a car door before police returned fire.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever had to pull the trigger,” LaMoria said in 2013. “It stays with you, taking the life of a young man. It was an unfortunate situation.”

Nine years ago, James Lamont, 36, of Rutland, was killed by police gunfire at the corner of State Street and Merchants Row on Oct. 28, 2010, according to the Rutland Herald. The lone officer in that incident was a Vermont State Police trooper and not a member of the Rutland City Police Department.

Police announced Tuesday they believed Louras had fired two shots using a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle at the police station around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

After the shooting, police used video surveillance to identify the car Louras was driving. He was spotted near the Rutland Shopping Plaza around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Police began a short pursuit with Louras that ended near the Amtrak station. At a Tuesday news conference police said Louras exchanged gunfire with officers using the rifle.

Officials have not yet released the identity of a body that was found in Salisbury on Tuesday. Police said the death of the man, which they suspect was a homicide, may have been connected to the police shooting.

As of Wednesday, police were still investigating what happened in Salisbury.

An autopsy was expected to be performed on Louras and on the body found Wednesday Salisbury at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington to determine the causes and manners of death. The autopsy is also expected to confirm the identity of the body found in Salisbury.

Vermont State Police continue to ask that anyone with information about the incidents call the Rutland barracks at 773-9101.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com


Photo by Jon Olender  

walking on sunshine

Joanna Hann, right, and Tony Bourn walk their daughter, Czarina, 3, down Baxter Street in Rutland City on a seasonable Tuesday afternoon.


News
Pending further inspection
Holiday Inn has to fix everything before it reopens

A town official says he expects every problem, from major to minor, to be fixed before the Board of Health Commissioners will allow the Holiday Inn to open again.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s 100%, quite literally,” said Joshua Terenzini, chairman of the Rutland Town Select Board, members of which also serve on the Board of Health Commissioners. “That’s my opinion as one board member. We take it very seriously when a handful of our firefighters almost get blown up by a gas leak that was ignored to say the least.”

On Sept. 30 at approximately 9 p.m. a guest at the Holiday Inn called 911 to report a smell of propane. According to the town fire department, one of the hotel’s boilers, where the odor was coming from, exploded shortly after their arrival. Firefighters had the blaze under control in short order, limiting damage to the boiler room an adjacent room. No injuries were reported. The following day, the Board of Health Commissioners voted to shut the hotel down, citing a lack of hot water.

The hotel’s owners told the Herald last week they hoped to have the hotel opened within another day or two, but it remains closed.

“The state inspectors are coming today to do the inspection,” said Anil Sachdev, a co-owner and co-manager of the Holiday Inn off South Main Street, on Wednesday. “The town comes next. We have to send the report to the town, which will be all the inspections and everything which have been happening for the past two or three days.”

The Vermont Department of Public Safety Division of Fire Safety has been to the inn at least twice since Oct. 4, according to records provided to the Herald by Town Health Office John Paul Faignant on Wednesday.

According to a report dated Oct. 4, Assistant State Fire Marshal Patrick Banks went to the inn on that day and conducted an inspection. He wrote that for the Division of Fire Safety to allow full or partial occupancy of the hotel, hot water would need to be restored to the areas in which the inn means to have guests. It requires everything in the hotel that uses gas to be inspected by a certified technician, the boiler must also be inspected, and smoke alarms in four rooms need to be brought into compliance with regulations.

The Oct. 4 document gave the inn 30 days to fix several fire exit doors that weren’t latching properly, to replace the sheetrock ceiling in the kitchen boiler room with a ceiling made from 5/8--inch type C gypsum board, and to fill the hole in the boiler room. It also calls for a leak in the hallway on the second floor of the south wing to be fixed, and to address issues with the fire alarm system. An Oct. 7 follow-up inspection lists another 20 or so items, most requiring boilers and other equipment to be fired and tested.

“We’ve been working 24/7 for the last seven days, some days we had more than 50 people working,” Sachdev said. “I think most of the stuff has been done. On a few items, the parts have been ordered — we’re waiting for them to come.”

He said two of the inn’s four boilers have been replaced and were tested Wednesday.

Gerald “GJ” Garrow, regional manager of the Division of Fire Safety’s Rutland office, said Wednesday it’ll ultimately be up to the town whether the hotel is allowed to reopen. His office will supply the town with a report identifying and major or minor issues left outstanding.

“There must be full completion of all life safety issues before the Town can allow any re-occupancy,” said Faignant in a Wednesday email.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


Gareth Henderson / Staff Photo  

Fall maintenance

Nick McMahon (left) and Greg Proctor, of the Rutland City Water Department, flush the hydrant at the corner of Maple and Grove streets. Hydrant-flushing takes place twice a year, in May and October.


Local
City to reform health board

Mayor David Allaire plans to reconstitute the city Board of Health.

Allaire nominated Mary Nemeth, Courtney Collins and Mark Woodbury to serve on the dormant board Monday. The nominations were tabled for two weeks, at which time they are voted on by the full Board of Aldermen.

The move comes after the high profile closures of KFC by the state and of Holiday Inn by the Rutland Town Board of Health, but Allaire said his decision originated elsewhere.

“There was some concern about some events down on Library Avenue in a certain household,” Allaire said Wednesday.

Nobody was sure how long the board had been vacant when city government attempted to revive it in 2013. Then-Alderman Gary Donahue suggested retooling the role of the board to advise city government on matters of public health after a debate on which disinfectants to use in the city water system. Then-Mayor Christopher Louras nominated a slate of members, but they were ultimately rejected by the board.

Louras found an acceptable collection of names in late 2014 and aldermen filled the seats.

“There’s no record of the board ever meeting after that,” Allaire said. “They don’t remember ever serving.”

Nemeth, a former vice president at Rutland Regional Medical Center, and Collins, a current emergency room nurse, were among the previous slate of nominees. Allaire said Woobdury, a chiropractor, was suggested by the city health officer.

The city charter calls for the Board of Health to hold meetings “as necessary” and gives it the duty “to see to the enforcement of all laws and ordinances relating to the preservation of the public health.” Allaire said the exact role the board would play in the city was to be determined. He said it might serve to hear appeals of health officer decisions, or it might be an front-line body with the Board of Aldermen hearing appeals of its decisions.

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com


Washington
AP
Defying impeachment inquiry, Trump makes charge more certain

WASHINGTON — The combative White House letter vowing to defy the “illegitimate” impeachment inquiry has actually put President Donald Trump on a more certain path to charges. His refusal to honor subpoenas or allow testimony would likely play into a formal accusation against him.

The letter sent to House leaders by White House counsel Pat Cipollone Tuesday evening declared the president would not cooperate with the investigation — a clear reason, Democrats say, to write an article of impeachment charging him with obstruction.

The White House insists that a formal House vote is necessary just to start the impeachment process. But Democrats are moving ahead without one, confident for now that they are backed by the Constitution and Trump’s own acknowledgements of trying to persuade a foreign government to investigate a political foe.

“The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president’s abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the letter. “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

Trump again defended his decision not to cooperate, calling a whistleblower’s complaint about his call with Ukraine’s leader “a fraud being perpetrated on the American public” and saying Republicans are being treated unfairly. He repeated he was being vilified for “a perfect phone call.”

But the president also undercut his no-cooperation argument Wednesday by putting conditions on his willingness, saying he would cooperate only if the House held a vote and Democrats would “give us our rights.”

Bolstered by polls showing increased public support for impeachment, Pelosi has shown no signs of shifting her strategy. Democrats plan to continue investigating while focusing on the president’s own acknowledgements that he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his country’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and also political rival Joe Biden and his family.

“The evidence provided by the president and his people has already been overwhelming,” even without additional witness testimony, said Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes. Himes is a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, which is leading the Ukraine investigation.

The intelligence panel, along with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform panels, subpoenaed Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, on Tuesday after Trump’s State Department barred him from showing up at a scheduled deposition. Texts provided by another diplomat last week showed Sondland and others navigating Trump’s demands for investigations as they spoke to Ukrainian government officials about a possible visit to Washington.

Trump’s stonewalling of impeachment comes as polls find that Americans are more likely to approve than disapprove of the inquiry, even as they divide on whether Trump should be removed from office. A new Washington Post-Schar School poll finds 58% supportive of the decision by Congress to launch an impeachment inquiry that could lead to Trump being removed from office. Also, about half of all Americans think Congress should remove Trump from office.

Still, the White House signaled it would not give an inch. Trump has taken to Twitter frequently to bash the probe, charging that the inquiry is not about anything more than partisan politics.

“The Do Nothing Democrats are Con Artists, only looking to hurt the Republican Party and President,” Trump wrote. “Their total focus is 2020, nothing more, and nothing less.”

After two weeks of an unfocused response to the impeachment probe, the White House letter amounted to the first volley in a strategy that is more defined — but one that carries its own risks.

“All that defiance does is add to the case” against the president, including obstruction of Congress, said Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat who sits on the Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels. He said the White House strategy actually works to convince the public of the president’s guilt, citing the recent polls.

“The public gets what’s happening,” Connolly said.

But Trump allies inside and outside the West Wing were pleased at the shot the letter represented.

They argue their best chance at winning the politics of impeachment is to emulate the just-say-no tactics they used for much of the special counsel’s Russia probe and against other investigations launched by Democrats in the House majority.

By making the fight as contentious as possible, the White House hopes to convince voters that the impeachment process is simply about politics. They also want to push the proceedings into next year, when the first ballots of the 2020 primaries are cast.

That would make it easier for Republicans to demand that impeachment be put aside in favor of letting the voters decide in November.

Also, he said that the impeachment fight will end up in the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear whether Democrats will go to court at all and risk long delay. They could simply move to an article of impeachment on obstruction.

Aware of the risks, Democrats are planning to move quickly — unlike the two-year Russia investigation, which Republicans had ample time to try and discredit. Multiple subpoenas sent by the House panels — including to the White House, Cabinet agencies and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani — came with a deadline to respond within the next two weeks.

As the House returns from a recess next Tuesday, the Democrats plan to hold hearings and votes to make their case, including legislation designed to improve the security of elections and prevent foreign interference. But they are so far declining to hold high-profile hearings featuring fierce, argumentative allies of the president, including Giuliani, who was involved in the negotiations with Ukraine.

Democrats believe the president’s own words are paramount to impeachment and don’t want to distract from that.

But they will also continue to investigate.

“I think what we have is overwhelming evidence that the president has engaged in multiple wrongdoings,” said Florida Rep. Val Demings, a member of both the intelligence and Judiciary panels. “But what we don’t know is how much more is out there.”


Spotlight

“Nine-year-olds don’t know that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. They don’t know people die and don’t come back to life. I don’t know if 9-year-olds can form intent to commit murder.”

Gus Kostopoulos, a former prosecutor-turned-juvenile defense lawyer in Chicago, commenting on murder and arson charges against a 9-year-old boy after a fire in a mobile home park killed five people. — A10

Biden speaks out

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, in a New Hampshire speech, said President Trump is “shooting holes in the Constitution” and should be impeached. A9


RHD Hotspot

Friday

Ditch the kids

Parents Night Out Open Gym. Drop the kids off and enjoy a night off on the second Friday of each month. No reservations needed. $18 members/$20 nonmembers, 6:15-9:15 p.m. Cobra Gymnastics & Dance Center, 56 Howe St. Building H, Rutland, cobravt@me.com, 772-7011.