WILLISTON, Vt. -- The commander of the Vermont State Police defended yesterday the decision by two troopers to shoot an armed mentally ill man in a remote area in Corinth Saturday.
Colonel Thomas Powlovich said Sergeant Marc Thomas and Trooper Andrew Campagne were justified when they shot and killed Joseph A. Fortunati, 40, because Fortunati held a gun toward them.
``I strongly feel that both . . . were justified in the use of deadly force . . . in that they believed he posed an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to themselves and others when he pulled the handgun from his waistband in the direction of the troopers and was failing to follow their verbal commands."
But Fortunati's father, Robert Fortunati Sr., said police used excessive force.
``It's not like he was any danger to anybody, like it was in the middle of a mall or a church or a bank," Fortunati Sr. said.
Joseph Fortunati had been staying in a tent on private land for several days.
The confrontation started after Fortunati's father said his son -- suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but not taking his medication -- had threatened to shoot family members who tried to talk with him. An employee with the Environmental Protection Agency also reported a suspicious person in the area of Copper Mine Road who had set up a road block and tent in the road and became agitated when asked who he was, police said.
Powlovich said police used a SWAT team and a hostage negotiation team to apprehend Fortunati because Fortunati had a gun, had threatened people, was mentally ill, and was in a remote area.
Eight members of the SWAT team tried to communicate with Fortunati in the woods, but he refused to comply with their orders, Powlovich said.
Police said Fortunati then fled from the area of his car. As police approached from more than 20 yards away, they gave him more orders and fired a nonlethal round of beanbags to try to apprehend him, but were unsuccessful.
When Fortunati pulled his weapon out of his waistband, police fired twice. Fortunati died of two gunshot wounds to the head and torso.
The shooting is being investigated by the Vermont State Police in Brattleboro.