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Shooting Victim to Testify at Trial of Former Windsor Police Officer

  • Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Anderson questions former Windsor Police Detective Christopher Connor in Windsor Superior Court on Sept. 11, 2017 in White River Junction, Vt. as Judge Timothy Tomasi listens during the testimony. Former Windsor Police Detective Ryan Palmer is charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor reckless conduct in connection with the shooting of a man in Windsor, Vt. Connor was at the scene of the shooting. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Windsor police officer Ryan Palmer outside of Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt on July 8, 2015. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

White River Junction — Prosecutors on Monday said the man who was wounded during a 2014 police shooting in Windsor will take the stand today at the trial of former police detective Ryan Palmer, who is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and reckless endangerment.

Jorge Burgos, now 37, suffered two gunshot wounds to his arm in the parking lot of Ferguson’s Auto on Nov. 16, 2014, when Palmer, now 30, and three other officers tried to orchestrate an undercover operation to arrest Burgos’ then girlfriend, Brittany Smith, on active warrants.

Palmer, who pleaded not guilty, contends he was acting in self-defense when he fired three shots into the car Burgos was driving.

On Monday, Christopher Connor, the former Windsor police detective who acted as Palmer’s partner the evening of the shooting, took the stand in Windsor Superior Court. Connor testified that his partner was in jeopardy of being run over because of his position near the front of Burgos’ vehicle and the manner in which the Burgos drove.

After the shooting, Connor testified, Palmer radioed “shots fired” and said something to the effect of ‘(expletive) tried to run me over,’ ” when the pair jumped back into the unmarked pickup truck they arrived in and followed Burgos south on Route 5.

However, two former Vermont State Police detectives who headed the shooting investigating determined that video footage of the incident captured by a security camera at the auto shop did not support Palmer and Connor’s accounts.

Palmer was not in harm’s way when Burgos sped out of the parking lot, one investigator testified on Monday.

“When you viewed this video, given your experience, what concerned you?” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Levine asked Craig LaPorte, an acting captain with Vermont State Police who helped establish the Major Crime Unit, which now investigates all officer-involved shootings in the state.

LaPorte said: “The information that we had from Chris Connor and the accounts didn’t quite match up with what we were seeing on the video.”

“In what way?” Levine replied.

“Chris Connor indicated that the car almost ran over officer Palmer, and in viewing the video, we didn’t see that danger present,” LaPorte testified.

Defense attorney Daniel Sedon pressed LaPorte and former Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Robert Patten, whose testimony began on Friday and continued on Monday, on cross-examination.

Patten was the lead detective, and LaPorte oversaw him and the other law enforcement officials who investigated the shooting.

Sedon questioned the investigators’ methodology and thoroughness, in an apparent attempt to undermine their conclusions.

Sedon questioned whether Patten had the proper training to conduct the probe, and he asserted that the scene of the alleged crime was poorly preserved. It rained several hours after the incident and footwear impressions were never analyzed, according to Sedon.

In addition, Sedon contended that more ballistics measurements should have been taken to help determine Palmer’s precise location in relation to the car at the time of the shooting.

“But that was not done,” Sedon said.

Patten admitted that he lacked training to perform certain tests, such as trajectory analysis, which was handled by another investigator.

The trajectory of at least one of the shots Palmer fired was examined at length in the case, and the jurors got to see a glimpse of that when Sedon displayed a photograph with a laser beam that showed the path the bullet traveled, which went through the driver’s side head rest and into the trunk.

Sedon on Monday maintained that Palmer’s perception of a threat was real that day.

One of the bullet casings from Palmer’s gun was found 13 inches away from one of the tire tracks left by Burgos’ Honda wagon, Sedon said, demonstrating how close to the vehicle Palmer had been when it passed.

Sedon argued that the surveillance video — even a version that was enhanced by the FBI and analyzed in court on Monday — is insufficient because the angle from which it was recorded doesn’t show Palmer’s perspective, and it lacked sound.

Sedon also questioned Patten and LaPorte on why they gave weight to statements by Burgos and Smith that Palmer wasn’t in front of the vehicle.

“I have no reason to challenge their credibility,” Patten said.

“They’re both convicted liars,” Sedon replied.

Burgos previously has been convicted of providing false information and Smith of identity fraud.

Late Monday afternoon, Windsor Superior Court Judge Timothy Tomasi expressed skepticism that the case would wrap up on Wednesday as scheduled.

“I don’t know how much flexibility there is,” Tomasi said of the court and jurors’ schedules.

In addition to Burgos, who is scheduled to be the first witness called this morning, prosecutors said they also plan to call Meghan Place, a victim’s advocate in Windsor County, who played a role in the ruse orchestrated by Palmer in order to capture Smith.

The two uniformed Windsor police officers who also were involved in the sting — Sgt. James Beraldi and officer Logan DeFelice — also are slated to testify during the trial, as well as another high-ranking Vermont State Police official and an expert from the Vermont Forensic Laboratory.

It isn’t yet clear whether Palmer himself will testify in his own defense.

Following the shooting, which occurred around 5 p.m., Burgos led police on a pursuit along Route 5 and briefly eluded capture before being apprehended in Claremont.

Initially, police charged Burgos with trying to run down Palmer, but those charges were withdrawn about a week later after the State Police investigators found the surveillance video footage.

A grand jury indicted Palmer in July 2015.

Court records indicate Burgos has a lengthy criminal record, including that his driver’s license was criminally suspended at the time of the shooting, when he also had a warrant out for his arrest in Vermont. He has multiple Twin States convictions, according to court records.

The trial is scheduled to continue this morning, beginning around 8:30 a.m.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.