Shaftsbury man sues state police for $25M over use of force during arrest – Brattleboro Reformer

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BURLINGTON — A Shaftsbury man who was arrested on a variety of criminal charges, including driving while under the influence and aggravated assault on police, has filed a $25 million civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Burlington claiming excessive force by three state troopers who responded to his truck crash, court records show.

Christopher W. Campbell, 42, of Tinkham Road, is seeking $5 million for each of five claims for the Feb. 23, 2021, incident, the lawsuit notes.

Campbell is claiming excessive force, denial of timely medical care, failure to intervene, negligence, and assault and battery, the 10-page lawsuit said.

The defendants named in the suit are state Troopers Robert Zink, Jeremy Sullivan and David Pfindel, who were assigned to the Shaftsbury barracks at the time, the Vermont State Police and an unknown group of John Does and Jane Does.

State police suspended Zink with pay after the incident, and after an internal investigation, he was charged by Attorney General T.J. Donovan with simple assault on Campbell. Zink denied the misdemeanor count and remains on unpaid leave.

Zink’s lawyer, David Sleigh of St. Johnsbury, said Monday his client, a 14-year police veteran, maintains his innocence.

Sleigh said Campbell was convicted in the case, and court records show Campbell paid $1,170 in court costs and fees after pleading guilty to DUI. He said Campbell also pleaded no contest to resisting arrest, and that case was sent to a local reparative justice board.

Police said Campbell had an alcohol level of 0.14 percent, nearly twice the 0.08 level when adult drivers are presumed under the influence by Vermont law.

Bennington County Deputy State’s Attorney Robert Plunkett charged Campbell the day after his arrest with eight criminal counts — aggravated assault on state police, unlawful restraint, impeding police by trying to take a Taser away from another state trooper, driving while intoxicated, careless and negligent driving, and three counts of simple assault on police — a protected professional performing a lawful duty.

Zink said the crash investigation revealed Campbell was driving a silver 2012 Toyota Tundra truck when it slid off the southbound shoulder of Tinkham Road and collided with several mailboxes. Sullivan stated the truck eventually drove back onto the road, turned into the driveway on Tinkham Road and collided with a tree and several garbage cans before becoming stuck a second time.

Campbell outlines a different version in his lawsuit. He said he was attempting to free his truck, and Sullivan entered Campbell’s land without permission. Campbell said Sullivan, to justify his actions and an alleged assault on the plaintiff, claimed he was resisting arrest.

Campbell said he repeated that “I am on my driveway.”

He said under the threat of having a Taser used on him, he turned around, got on his knees and put his hands behind his back. Campbell maintains the three named troopers rushed him and threw him face down on the icy driveway.

Campbell’s lawsuit does confirm some of the police version when he said he and the officers lost their balance and slid down the driveway.

Campbell maintains Zink punched him in the face and lower body, and that Sullivan and Pfindel did not stop him.

The plaintiff in his lawsuit said the troopers never told him why he was arrested, even when transporting him to the state police barracks.

The stories also diverge on what help was given to Campbell. He claims he was denied prompt and necessary medical care. He never mentions Bennington Rescue was among those responding to assist.

Sleigh has said Campbell was a serious threat to himself, Zink, other troopers and to Bennington Rescue’s emergency medical technicians all the way to the hospital.

He said a review of the investigation, including audio and video, shows Campbell was “violent, resisting, non-cooperating and intoxicated” for three hours at the scene, at the hospital and at the barracks.

Springfield lawyer Brendan Donahue filed the civil lawsuit on behalf of Campbell. Longtime Bennington defense lawyer David Silver represented him in the criminal case.

State police hired Zink in 2008 and assigned him as a road trooper at the Shaftsbury barracks after his graduation from the Vermont Police Academy. He became a detective trooper with the Narcotics Investigation Unit in 2012, then returned as a senior trooper at the Shaftsbury barracks in 2013.

He was assigned as a detective trooper in Shaftsbury in 2014, then promoted to sergeant/patrol commander two years later. In August 2019, he was assigned to the Rutland barracks, and he was demoted back to trooper for undisclosed reasons, state police said. He transferred back to the Shaftsbury barracks in December 2020.

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