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Thetford Death Inspires Seat Run

Theresa Davidonis during an interview at her home in Thetford on June 27, 2012.
Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Theresa Davidonis during an interview at her home in Thetford on June 27, 2012. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Since June 2012 when she watched as a Vermont State Police trooper fired a stun-gun that killed her boyfriend, Theresa Davidonis has railed against what she claims is police wrongdoing, and government’s unwillingness to hold the officers accountable.

Now, Davidonis is seeking to carve out a role for herself in government: The life-long Thetford resident is running for a seat on the Selectboard.

My experiences with the government and police have definitely contributed — it woke me up to how nobody listens,” Davidonis said in an interview yesterday.

Davidonis, who says she has never before run for office or been active politically, said she has no intention of taking her battle against the Vermont Attorney General’s Office or the Vermont State Police — which she has sued in Orange Superior Court — to the Selectboard, nor will she make the death of her boyfriend, MacAdam Mason, a focal point of her candidacy.

Rather, she said, she is running to cut spending and lower taxes though she offered few details on how that would be achieved.

“I can’t do anything about the State Police. All I can do is try to make things right in Thetford,” Davidonis said. “I know the town, I know the people, and I think I can make a positive difference. I feel like I can contribute. The police are the undertone, but that’s not the main reason (I’m running.)”

Davidonis, 52, will face Stuart Rogers for a three-year seat on the board, which has five members. She submitted a petition Jan. 28 with the legally-required 25 signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot, Town Clerk Tracy Borst said.

Davidonis operates a hair salon in Thetford and has four children. She says her family has lived in Thetford for at least four generations.

The Sawnee Bean Road resident has lived relatively anonymously in town, until recent events pushed her onto the public stage.

On June 20, State Police responded to the home that she shared with Mason, 39, after he called Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and threatened to kill himself and others. The State Police said Davidonis persuaded police to leave when they arrived on the scene, but they eventually returned.

What happened next is in dispute.

State Police have said that David Shaffer ordered Mason to lie on his stomach on the ground. Instead, they claim, Mason aggressively walked toward Shaffer with a closed fist.

Shaffer fired his stun gun, striking Mason in the chest, police said. Davidonis and her son, Aleks, who also witnessed the shooting, have said that Mason never threatened the troopers, but instead raised up his hands in a surrender position, with his palms facing outward. He made two steps toward Shaffer — the ground Mason was on sloped toward the trooper — and said, “Go ahead and shoot me.”

The New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the stun gun strike caused Mason’s death.

Mason had suffered a brain seizure the night before, information that Davidonis says she shared with police before the fatal encounter.

“I said, ‘Don’t Taser him. You’ll kill him,’ ” Davidonis previously told the Valley News. “They looked at me and shot him right in the chest. I watched the barbs. I watched the eyes roll back in his head. I just want people to know they were told. They were warned. ”

A DHMC doctor told the Valley News that, because of the seizure he suffered the previous night, Mason may have been unable to understand Shaffer’s commands.

Last month, Vermont Attorney Bill Sorrell cleared Shaffer of criminal wrongdoing, saying the law allows officers to use “reasonable” force when they believe they are in immediate danger of harm.

Davidonis has sued police in state court, alleging that they trespassed on her property and inflicted emotional distress on her when they fired the Taser at Mason.

While Davidonis said she will not make the incident the centerpiece of her campaign, she continues to rail against what she believes is the police’s refusal to be held accountable in Mason’s death.

“I refuse to believe Sorrell, honestly in his heart that (Shaffer) is not guilty of murder,” Davidonis said yesterday.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.