Police in Montpelier on Thursday let the community know what they did to investigate the reported threat at Montpelier High School last month.
On the afternoon of May 17, police learned about an alleged threat by an 18-year-old student at the high school. Police officials said they met with school staff and an unnamed third party and performed risk assessments.
Then, invoking Vermont’s 2018 red-flag law, police asked the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office to apply for an extreme-risk protection order. A judge granted it, and at about 7 p.m., officers went to the student’s home and seized two legally-owned rifles and ammunition.
Officials said there’s nothing to suggest the weapons were ever on school grounds. The student has not been charged with a crime, but prosecutors can extend the six-month order if they can prove there’s a continued risk.
“I can recall probably a handful having been served since this law came into effect, so it’s a very rare thing for this to be utilized,” Montpelier Police Cpl. Michael Philbrick said. “There has to be a pretty unique, high threshold that had been met.”
The threshold involves proving that a firearm owner has placed other people in reasonable fear of physical harm. Even though the judge felt the threshold was met, police officials say there’s no indication that there ever was an imminent threat.
“I can tell you for this particular incident, the weapons — in this case, again, six-month seizure — but the weapons are in ATF custody and they will be destroyed,” Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete said.
Peete said the January 2018 armed standoff at the high school’s football field that ended in a deadly shooting continues to influence how the department trains.
“Heavily. Heavily. And it also even goes back to an officer wellness issue as well,” he said. “But it’s something that we know — Montpelier is not exempt.”
Cpl. Philbrick was one of the officers cleared of wrongdoing for firing at bank robbery suspect Nathan Giffin. The incident still weighs on him.
“It takes its toll on me every day,” he said. “It was a tragedy, but it was an example of a system that we have in place, the training and such, working.”
Peete also addressed the department’s staffing shortage, which has led the department to exceed its overtime budget by nearly $100,000.
“We currently are authorized 17 sworn officers,” He said. “I would be comfortable with anywhere between 19 to 21 officers. We’re currently staffed at 14 right now.”