The City of Burlington will pay a $270,000 settlement to the estate of a New North End man shot and killed by police in 2013.
Wayne Brunette was holding a long-handled shovel when former Burlington cop Ethan Thibault shot and killed the mentally disturbed man outside of his parents' Randy Lane home. Brunette's wife, Barbara, filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in 2015.
The court cleared Thibault and another responding officer, Brent Navari, of wrongdoing but maintained that the city “failed to reasonably accommodate Mr. Brunette’s mental disability,” according to a police department press release issued Tuesday. The case was headed for trial this fall, but the city agreed to the settlement during mediation in April "without an admission of liability," the release said.
Thibault resigned from the Burlington Police Department in 2016. Navari is still on the force.
In a statement, Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said he hopes the settlement brings “a modicum of closure” to the Brunette family. Wayne Brunette’s parents, Ruthine and Lawrence, witnessed the incident from their front doorway.
“Our approach to these types of crises has evolved, and our capacity to safely handle them has multiplied, but we can never guarantee that force won’t be necessary to protect life in these encounters,” del Pozo said. “Our commitment, however, is to do everything we can to avoid such a tragic outcome.”
Courtesy Of Burlington Police Department
Wayne Brunette in 2003 (left) and former Burlington police officer Ethan Thibault
Before Thibault shot Brunette, a Burlington police officer hadn't fired a gun in the line of duty in 16 years. But three years later, in 2016, a Queen City cop shot and killed 76-year-old Phil Grenon, a paranoid schizophrenic wielding a knife, after a five-hour standoff. Prosecutors determined the shooting was justified.
News of the Brunette family settlement comes at a time when the Burlington Police Department is facing public scrutiny for recent incidents of alleged excessive force. Officer Cory Campbell is currently on administrative duty for punching Douglas Kilburn, a 54-year-old physically disabled man whose death was ruled a homicide, in March.