A Rutland City Police Department officer, Cpl. Christopher Rose, will not be charged after fatally shooting a man at the South Main Street McDonald’s on Aug. 25, according to Attorney General T.J. Donovan.
Rose told investigators the man had an object he believed was a gun although law-enforcement officers later determined it was a cellphone.
A news release sent Wednesday said their investigation of the fatal shooting of Jonathan Mansilla, 33, of Coral Gables, Florida, was justified.
Under Vermont’s self-defense law, deadly force is not considered justified if the accused person was the initial aggressor — the person must also indicate he or she reasonably believed there was an immediate danger of harm or death and that he or she believed force was necessary to avoid this danger.
The release provided a detailed description of the events which preceded Mansilla’s death, which were investigated by the Vermont State Police. Around 2:30 p.m. Aug. 25, Rose spotted Mansilla’s black 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt on Allen Street. The car had already been part of a police pursuit from earlier the same day.
However, Rose said what caught his attention was that the car crossed the center line and then passed his police cruiser at a “high rate of speed” and almost hit the cruiser by going left of the center line.
Rose turned his cruiser around to pursue the Cobalt. He caught up with the car Mansilla was driving at the intersection of Allen Street and Route 7.
Rose saw the Cobalt hit the rear of a UPS truck. His cruiser video captured Mansilla, outside his car, but then leaning in to grab some object that Rose said he could not identify.
Mansilla then ran off in the direction of the McDonald’s at the corner of Allen and South Main streets.
Rose chased Mansilla on foot, identifying himself as a police officer and ordering Mansilla to stop, but Mansilla continued to flee and entered the restaurant.
The release said Mansilla appeared to try, unsuccessfully, to lock the door after he entered the restaraunt.
There were at least two families in the dining area, and two children, 2 and 7, the report said.
Mansilla ran into the men’s restroom as Rose entered the dining area.
Mansilla entered the restroom seconds before Rose arrived. The officer tried to open the door but was unable to push it open, apparently because of resistance from Mansilla.
Rose walked away briefly, but then returned to the restroom door. This time, it opened but Rose backed away, clipped his radio into his belt and placed his right hand on his holstered firearm.
Rose then entered the restroom with his firearm drawn. Mansilla was in a locked stall and Rose identified himself again as an officer and commanded Mansilla to show his hands. Mansilla did not respond.
About 10 seconds later, Mansilla “abruptly” exited the stall, the release said, and ran towards Rose, while screaming, with his arm raised around head level and carrying in his hand what Rose believed to be a weapon.
Rose fired three rounds, two of which struck Mansilla in the chest as they both stumbled out of the restroom and into the hallway. Mansilla fell to the floor of the hallway.
Investigators found Mansilla was not armed when he was shot. Instead, he was holding a cellphone.
Rose’s account of the event of Aug. 25 was corroborated by an independent eyewitness.
“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,” said a release from Donovan’s office sent on Thursday.
The release from Donovan’s office said the shooting was also analyzed under Vermont’s “justifiable homicide” law although that version did not become effective until Oct. 1.
Inside the restroom, Rose announced his presence and told Mansilla to show his hands. Instead, Mansilla charged directly at Rose giving Rose “only a split second in which to respond,” the release said.
It does not appear that Corporal Rose’s decision to enter the restroom to see if anyone was in danger was unreasonable. Rose had seen Mansilla put people in jeopardy before they got to the restaurant and learned Mansilla had fled from multiple officers.
Rose thought Mansilla might be armed and didn’t know if anyone else was in the restroom when Mansilla went in.
“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,” the release said.
On Aug. 25, 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, Mansilla had absconded from supervision.
Officials at the Vermont State Police and Vermont Attorney General’s Office said investigators believed Mansilla, who lived most of his life in the Miami area, was visiting family in Vermont in August.
Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said the department appreciated the work done to investigate the shooting death involving Rose, who has been with the RCPD for more than five years.
“We’re pleased the investigation cleared the officer and we’re appreciative of the thoroughness of the investigation conducted by Vermont State Police and appreciative of the thorough review of the investigation done by the Attorney General’s Office,” he said.
Kilcullen said Rose has been on paid administrative leave while the investigation was conducted. With the decision from the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the city police will conduct their own investigation and Rose will be expected to return to active duty after catching up on some training. While the RCPD is looking to fill some position, Rose’s position was not considered open so his return will not change the department’s total number of officers.