Prosecutor who disarmed shooter stops carrying gun to work

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2017 8:58 PM
Prosecutor who disarmed shooter stops carrying gun to work

BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A prosecutor who disarmed a suspect in a fatal shooting of a social worker said on Wednesday he is no longer carrying a gun to work following a newspaper report that some courthouse workers were concerned.

State's attorney Scott Williams said he believes that as a law enforcement officer he has the authority to carry a gun to work but he decided to stop doing so after learning from a Times Argus report that some courthouse workers were concerned about public safety.

"I don't want people uncomfortable because of me," he said.

The executive director of the Vermont Department of State's Attorneys and Sheriffs, John Campbell, asked the state attorney general to review the Vermont law. He said his understanding is that only a public law enforcement officer who has received certification through the Criminal Justice Training Council may carry a firearm in a state building.

Williams grabbed a rifle away from Jody Herring after she shot Lara Sobel outside a state office building in August 2015, authorities said. Herring, who authorities say was upset about losing custody of her daughter, has been charged with Sobel's death and the slayings of three relatives.

Herring, who's from Barre, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of her cousins Regina Herring and Rhonda Herring, her aunt Julie Falzarano and Sobel.

Williams said he never took his gun into the courtroom. He said the offices in the courthouse building, including the Department for Children and Families, get monthly threats such as by phone or social media but most of them are not serious.

Williams, a former public defender who served eight years in the Navy, said he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder five years ago but worked through it with the help of counseling.

Before learning about workers' concerns, he said, he thought that having a gun at work might help prevent further tragedy if he was faced again with similar circumstances. He said he thought, "I can add something to the state worker safety mix if everything goes to hell."

Williams testified before the legislature several months after the shooting about ways to improve worker safety, but he said on Wednesday he thinks it's taking too long for the state to make improvements. He said he plans to talk to legislators to clarify the law on prosecutors carrying guns if it is unclear that they can.

The National District Attorney's Association does not have a position on whether prosecutors should be able to carry weapons, and the laws vary from state to state, said association board member Joshua Marquis, the district attorney in Oregon's Clatsop County.