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FYI - This is my brother, and I felt the need to post as this incident actually hit papers in much of New England. Thank god it's finally cleared up on the criminal aspect!!!!

Breaking News


Montpelier, February 9, 2005 -- The Attorney General's Office announced today that, pursuant to the actions of a grand jury, no criminal charges will be filed against Springfield Police Officer Christopher Norton arising out of his shooting at a motor vehicle on August 16, 2004, in the town of Springfield. At the time of the incident, the vehicle was being driven by Nina Keus, of Grafton, Vermont.

Under Vermont law, grand jury proceedings are secret. However, in this case, Attorney General William H. Sorrell sought and obtained a court order permitting disclosure of the following information:

1. At the request of the Office of the Attorney General, a grand jury was convened in Windsor County to investigate and consider the facts surrounding Springfield Police Officer Christopher Norton's use of deadly force in shooting at a motor vehicle on August 16, 2004, in Springfield, Vermont.

2. The grand jury was asked to consider whether Officer Norton's conduct violated Vermont's criminal laws.

3. Officer Norton was invited to appear and testify, and did appear and testify before the grand jury.

4. After deliberation on this matter, the grand jury returned no indictments.

Commenting on the disclosure, Attorney General Sorrell said: "There has been a considerable amount of public interest in this matter. Given this interest, we took the unusual step of seeking court permission to release some information about the deliberations of the grand jury. This disclosure serves the interests of Officer Norton as well as the community at large. I appreciate the work of the grand jurors and am confident that justice has been done."

The Attorney General's review of this matter was limited to the actions of Officer Norton. Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand is prosecuting Ms. Keus for her conduct in this incident. She is currently facing charges of Operation of a Motor Vehicle without the Owner's Consent; Reckless Endangerment; Grossly Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Second Offense; and Driving with a Suspended License.

Police shoot at car after stop in Springfield

August 17, 2004

By Brendan McKenna Southern Vermont Bureau

SPRINGFIELD - A veteran police officer's bullets couldn't stop a suspect from fleeing in a reportedly stolen car early Monday.

Springfield Police said Officer Chris Norton fired several shots at a white Chevrolet Lumina he believed might hit him as the driver tried to leave a driveway just three houses down from the police station.

The driver, Nina Kues of Springfield, was able to escape, striking Norton in the leg with her car and leaving the officer to limp back to the station on foot, police said.

Police Chief Douglas Johnston said the incident started when a Springfield resident called to report the car stolen at around 1 a.m. Monday.

Norton noticed the car on Main Street a short time later and tried to confront the driver, ordering her to turn off the engine, Johnston said.

"He ordered (Kues) to shut the car off and a struggle ensued," Johnston said.

Johnston declined to comment on the details of what happened beyond a written statement, saying he hadn't been present. A Vermont State Police investigation into the shooting is under way.

"The investigation is not done, No. 1, and I'm not privy to everything found out in the investigation," Johnston said. "Go into great detail? I can't do that."

According to the statement, "Due to the close proximity of an apartment building, Officer Norton felt that the car might hit him in the attempt to leave. The vehicle then proceeded forward and again Officer Norton felt that the car was traveling at him, placing his life in danger."

The chief's statement continued, "Officer Norton then discharged his firearm several times, striking the vehicle."

Kues was not hit, police said.

Johnston would only say that Norton - who came to Springfield two years ago after five or six years' experience as a police officer in Kentucky - fired more than one shot. He would not say how many times the officer fired his weapon, saying that withholding that detail was important in protecting the investigation.

Police recovered the vehicle about an hour later on Lincoln Street, less than a mile from the scene of the shooting. They later found Kues elsewhere in town and arrested her for driving while intoxicated during her altercation with Norton, Johnston said.

She was processed and released Monday, Johnston said.

Though she has not yet been charged with assaulting a police officer, Johnston said she could face those charges in the future, depending on the results of the State Police investigation.

Norton has been placed on paid leave pending the results of the investigation, which Johnston said he hoped would be handed over to the attorney general for action by the middle of next week.

However, Johnston said, he had seen nothing to indicate that Norton hadn't followed department rules regarding deadly force.

"If your life is threatened, obviously you can use deadly force. If anybody else's life is threatened you can use deadly force," Johnston said. "Nothing there indicates otherwise to my knowledge."

State Police Lt. Timothy Oliver, the case manager of the investigation, said his detectives would try to speak to anyone who witnessed the incident, as well as Kues and Norton, and compare those statements with the forensic evidence.

"We're fact finders," Oliver said. "We try to figure out exactly what happened, go back in time and present (prosecutors) with the facts."

Oliver said the Lumina is locked up in a secure place so a team from the Vermont Forensic Laboratory can investigate it in detail.

"That's their forte," he said.

While Oliver declined to comment about whether Norton may have tried to shoot out the tires on the car, he did say that none of them had been hit.

"The investigation is still continuing, and we haven't done a thorough look (at the car) in detail to determine how many of the holes are bullets," Oliver said.

He said he was somewhat relieved that his detectives weren't investigating any injuries as a result of the shooting.

"Anytime you don't have injuries or loss of life that's a good thing," Oliver said. "Nobody was hurt and nobody was killed, and that's good for all parties."

The man who reported the car stolen will also face charges as a result of police investigations Monday.

Johnston said William Snide, also of Springfield, was arrested for aggravated assault for striking a Springfield woman. Police said Kues may have been fleeing that altercation in Snide's car.

"There's another case brewing from this as far as the assault," the chief said.

Contact Brendan McKenna at [email protected]


Woman says officer hit her before firing

August 18, 2004

By Brendan McKenna Southern Vermont Bureau

William Snide, 34, (left) and Jeffrey Baird, 24, both of Springfield, examine bullet holes Tuesday in Snide's car. A Springfield police officer fired several shots at the car Monday morning after Nina Kues, 23, of Springfield, allegedly tried to hit the officer with the car.

ROCKINGHAM - A woman fired upon at least five times by Springfield police Monday claimed she was simply trying to get away from an abusive officer.

Nina Kues, 23, of Springfield, who was not hit by any of the bullets, sported a black eye outside the Rockingham barracks of the Vermont State Police on Tuesday.

Kues said that she was beaten by Officer Chris Norton of the Springfield Police Department while she was sitting in a parked car that had been reported stolen earlier that morning.

"The officer came out of nowhere and the window was down, and he literally tried to pull open the door," Kues said. "He said something, then I said something to him, then he struck me in the face with his flashlight - twice."

It was only after being hit by the officer that Kues said she started the car's ignition and tried to drive away.

Kues said she couldn't remember precisely what had been said, claiming it was all a blur.

Norton told police investigators Monday that he believed the car might hit him as it was attempting to leave because the driveway was so narrow, prompting a barrage of bullets from the Springfield officer.Both passenger side windows of the white Chevrolet Lumina were shot out and a couple of bullet holes dotted the front passenger door.

One bullet pierced the windshield, striking the dashboard in front of the steering wheel.

At least five shots apparently struck the car, but police are not yet releasing that information.

Kues admitted that she had reversed out of the driveway quickly, but said the car was never pointed close to Norton, who she said was standing on a narrow sidewalk next to the driveway.

"There was no possibility I could hit him," Kues said. "I didn't back toward him. There's no possible way I could turn the wheel and hit him at all. If I turned in that driveway, I would have hit the house."

She added, "You can see the marks (in the driveway) where I hit the pedal. They're totally straight, there's no turning of the wheels - totally straight marks where the wheels were."

Police released the car Tuesday after completing their examination. Pointing to bullet holes around the windows of the car, some at the top of the passenger side door, Kues also said she didn't believe that Norton was aiming for her tires.

"He obviously wasn't shooting to stop the car; he was shooting at me," she said. "If I didn't duck, I probably would've gotten hit by a bullet. As I pulled out of the driveway he shot at the front windshield."

The owner of the car, William Snide, 34, of Springfield, said police told him they found a bullet slug on the driver's seat of the car.

Norton, a two-year veteran of the Springfield police force with several years of prior law enforcement experience, confronted Kues on Monday after Snide reported the car stolen at about 1 a.m.

Kues escaped from the confrontation with Norton at a house on Main Street, just three doors down from the police station. Police said they arrested her later that morning for driving while intoxicated.

Snide and Kues both said there had been a fight between Snide and another Springfield resident, Sarah Adams. Kues said she took the car to separate Snide and Adams.

Snide, who spoke cordially with Kues on Tuesday, had been arrested Monday for aggravated assault on Adams. Examining his car Tuesday, Snide said he was astonished that Kues hadn't been shot.

"How did that bullet not go through here?" he said, pointing to a hole at the bottom of the passenger side door. "He was (expletive) shooting to kill her."

Vermont State Police Detective Lt. Timothy Oliver and Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston both declined to comment about Kues' allegations of abuse Tuesday.

"I didn't do the investigation," Johnston said. "I can't comment on that one way or the other. … I don't know the answer."

Johnston had said Monday that while he wasn't privy to all the details, he had no reason to believe that Norton had acted improperly.

If someone threatens the life of a police officer or another person, officers are allowed to use deadly force, the chief had said Monday.

Oliver said Tuesday that the investigation was winding down, but it was still ongoing, and he could not comment about Kues' black eye.

Oliver did say that all the bullets Norton fired Monday had been recovered from the car. He continued to withhold the number of shots fired, saying that was "still an integral part of the investigation."

Oliver said that when he and his detectives completed their report, they would turn it over to the Vermont attorney general, who would review it and determine what to do next.

Kues could face charges of aggravated assault on a police officer if the investigation determines she tried to hit Norton with the car.


Opinions vary on shooting
Residents take sides in police shooting

August 20, 2004

By Brendan McKenna Southern Vermont Bureau

SPRINGFIELD - As conflicting accounts of a police shooting earlier this week fly across lunch counters and sidewalk benches, the town remains divided about whom to believe.

Springfield Police Officer Chris Norton has told investigators he fired on a reportedly stolen car Monday morning because he feared the driver was trying to run him down after he struggled with her.

The driver, Nina Kues, 23, of Springfield, paints a different tale, accusing Norton of hitting her in the face twice with his flashlight before she tried to escape.

Norton's shots shattered the two passenger side windows of the car and left a bullet hole in the windshield. Bullets also gouged the dashboard near the steering wheel, but Kues was able to drive off.

She was arrested later Monday morning and charged with drunken driving.

Some in town, like Margery Gapper, who lives in a senior housing downtown, said they thought Norton reacted the right way.

"They said the officer got hurt, I think he did what he had to," Gapper said. "What can I say, I'm all for police officers. When he asked for the keys, she should have given them."

Gapper added, "I hope they learned their lesson taking off like that. … If you let one get away with it, they'd all do it."

Mary Bowman, who was discussing the incident with her husband and sister at the Springfield Royal Diner, also gave credence to Norton's account.

"I think he thought he would be run over and wanted to stop her," Bowman said. "She was intoxicated, so she shouldn't have been driving anyway."

Bowman's husband, Arthur, said he was troubled by Kues' accusations of abuse.

"I don't know what to think about her charges that she was hit with a flashlight," he said.

Others in town, however, were more skeptical about Norton's actions.

Jerry Wolfe, who lives on Route 5 between Springfield and Rockingham, said he thought Norton's shots were uncalled for.

"It looks like to me that he knew exactly where he was shooting, and he was not trying to stop the car," Wolfe said. "He used way too much force. Number one, that driveway has plenty of room. He could get out of the way without shooting his gun.

"For me, you only use deadly force if your life is in jeopardy, and I can't see that his life was in jeopardy. … Some of these guys seem to be getting too trigger happy," he said.

However, Wolfe, who works for Spectrum Youth and Family Services in Rutland, said he didn't give much weight to Kues' claims of being hit by a flashlight.

"From the picture I saw … if you hit somebody with a flashlight like that you're going to break the skin," Wolfe said. "It looks to me like she was punched in the face."

A retired police officer with 14 years' experience, who asked not to be identified, also said there seemed to be problems with Kues' accusation.

"I find it hard to believe from the picture in the paper. … If she got hit by a flashlight like that, there would be more physical damage, but I don't know," he said.

The retired officer also questioned several aspects of Norton's account as relayed by investigators.

Had he been there, he said, he doesn't think he could have pulled the trigger.

"You don't approach a vehicle from the rear where a driver could get a full shot. You don't approach a stolen car from the rear or the front unless they've changed tactics," he said. "And why was he by himself on a stolen car complaint? To me it was an automatic, you don't do things alone. Why wasn't somebody else there?"

Springfield Police Chief Douglas Johnston could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Vermont State Police Lt. Timothy Oliver confirmed that Norton was alone until after the Kues left the scene.

Oliver said a state trooper was the first to arrive, but wasn't sure when Norton had called for backup. State Police plan to go over tapes from the Springfield dispatch center as part of their investigation into the incident, Oliver said.

Some Springfield residents went even further than Wolfe and the retired officer in their criticism of Norton's reported actions.

Dan Warner, who teaches driver education in Springfield, said that even though the job of a police officer is stressful and often thankless, they still need to do their job without taking frustrations out on suspects.

Warner said 20-year retirement requirements had been put in place for a reason: to allow overstressed officers a way to leave when they know they've had too much.

"We expect more from them, and maybe we expect too much … if retirement needs to be five years, then so be it," Warner said. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's no different for police officers."

Raymond Hobbs, an out-of-work machinist who had been discussing the incident with Warner, said he was worried about what seemed like a trend of officers over-reacting.

"All I can think of is that guy who was shot in Brattleboro while holding a knife to his throat," Hobbs said, referring to the death of Robert "Woody" Woodward.

Woodward, 37, died shortly after being shot seven times by officers Marshall Holbrook and Terrance Parker on the morning of Dec 2, 2001, in the All Souls Unitarian Church in West Brattleboro.

The two officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the State Police.

A federal judge threw out a civil lawsuit alleging that the officers used excessive force to subdue Woodward, who was suffering from mental illness.

Hobbs said that in light of the Woodward shooting, Monday's incident in Springfield took on a sinister light.

"Some people seem to gravitate to law enforcement so they can legally shoot someone or beat people," Hobbs said. "I went to high school with Chief Douglas Johnston and I like him … but this guy here, I don't know him, and he seems a little too gung-ho."

Hobbs, who admitted to a number of run-ins with police but said he'd never been convicted, added that he also believed Kues' account of being beaten.

"My personal opinion is that I trust her more than I do the police, and I don't know her," he said.

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