A Vermont State Police trooper faces a misdemeanor assault charge for hitting an intoxicated man during a combative arrest in Shaftsbury.
Trooper Robert Zink, 39, is accused of "striking" a 41-year-old man who was handcuffed on the ground during a February 23 arrest, according to a Wednesday press release from the Vermont State Police. He was cited at the request of the Vermont Attorney General.
The suspect was "actively resisting" arrest, according to the release, but Zink's blows did not appear to be in response to the man's actions, the release stated.
A previous February press release by VSP describing the encounter stated that the suspect "physically resisted Troopers' efforts, attempted to disarm a Trooper of their Taser and assaulted them. After a brief struggle, Campbell was taken into custody and transported to the Shaftsbury Barracks for processing."
Zink had been on paid leave since a fellow trooper raised concern internally about Zink's conduct. He's now on unpaid leave, according to the release, and is due in Vermont Superior Court in Bennington on April 12.
The state provided no other information about the alleged assault Wednesday, including where Zink struck the man, how many times, and whether the man was injured. A Bennington Banner story last month about the investigation into Zink noted that Attorney General T.J. Donovan had viewed a police video from the incident. That video was not available Wednesday evening.
But Zink's attorney, David Sleigh, said the alleged crime appears to be three punches to the man's head in the context of a tumultuous struggle initiated by the suspect.
Zink, Sleigh said, had been called in as backup by another trooper. The troopers and the suspected fell to the ground, and the man tried to reach for a different trooper's Taser. The other trooper, according to Sleigh, yelled "Don't take my Taser," at which point Zink struck the man in the thigh twice. He then delivered three or so punches to the head, until his colleague yelled for him to stop.
The alleged assault took place over three to four seconds, Sleigh said.
The attorney said he was "dismayed" that Donovan would charge the trooper with criminal conduct for his actions under "extraordinarily difficult, emergent circumstances."
"I don't understand why Bob is charged with a crime when troopers who shot people are never charged with crimes," Sleigh said.
Donovan's office said it would not comment on the case until a judge finds probable cause.
Zink's is the second misdemeanor assault citation issued this week against a Vermont police officer for force used during an arrest. Tuesday, former St. Albans corporal Mark Schwartz was cited for Tasing a man in February of 2019.