Vermont State Police bodycam video shows beating of handcuffed suspect by trooper

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A body cam video shot by a Vermont State Police trooper and obtained by the Banner reveals the violent scene as a handcuffed individual berating troopers is punched in the back of his head and dragged along the ground to the VSP vehicle in his Shaftsbury driveway in 2021.

The 44-minute video caught by Trooper David Pfindel’s body camera shows Pfindel arriving at the snowy scene on Tinkham Road in Shaftsbury on Feb. 23, 2021, to find both VSP Trooper Jeremy Sullivan and Trooper Robert Zink ordering Christopher Campbell onto his knees in his driveway. A silver truck can be seen nearby with its front tire in a side ditch on the driveway, and an orange tractor pulled up in front of the vehicle.

Campbell is seen voluntarily dropping to his knees, facing away from the troopers, with his hands clasped on the back of his head. Sullivan and Zink approach, ordering Campbell, apparently intoxicated and screaming, to put his hands behind his back. Both officers then tackle Campbell from behind and force him onto his stomach in the snow, where he is handcuffed. All this time, Campbell is screaming that they are in his driveway.

The video shows both troopers lifting Campbell to his feet and leading him toward one of the squad cars. As they are walking, Campbell momentarily breaks their grasp, and Zink grabs hold of the man. All three men slide down the snow-covered driveway several feet as Sullivan forces Campbell’s head down into the snow. A few seconds later, Zink lands the first of several punches toward Campbell’s legs. Pfindel turns and quickly walks to his squad car and readies the back seat for Campbell. When he returns, the video shows Campbell back on his belly with his hands cuffed behind his back, continuing to struggle and curse the kneeling officers above him. Zink is seen with his head bowed down, catching his breath, as he and Sullivan apply weight with their forearms to Campbell’s back.

Zink is seen throwing a punch at Campbell’s leg, and voice yells, “Let go of me.” Zink then throws two more punches toward Campbell’s legs, and, seconds later, with Campbell visually in handcuffs, Zink starts punching Campbell repeatedly in the back of the head. Trooper Sullivan yells, “Hey-hey-hey,” reaching out toward Zink’s arm to stop the blows as Zink continues to punch at Campbell’s head. Sullivan is then seen with his knee planted on Campbell’s back, screaming at Campbell to “shut up.”

Zink stands up and takes a breath, then grabs Campbell, dragging him by the shoulder of a vest several feet through the snow toward a squad car as Campbell remains handcuffed. Sullivan moves toward Campbell as Pfindel is heard saying, “He’s bleeding real bad from the back of the head.”

It is unclear from the video how that injury occurred. Pfindel then radios for rescue. At some point, Campbell says, “You punched me in the head for no reason.” Zink responds by saying, “You were grabbing us.” Campbell is yelling, struggling, and cursing the officers all this time.

According to an official affidavit in the case, Sullivan had screamed, “Stop going for my taser.” However, those words could not be heard on Pfindel's video.

Once Campbell was lifted into the squad car, blood can be seen on the snow where Campbell was lying. The troopers decided to bring Campbell into the Shaftsbury barracks. The rest of the video shows Campbell inside the cruiser resisting medical aid from rescue personnel and acting belligerent toward the troopers before being led to a barracks holding cell.

Zink was charged in April 2021 with one count of simple assault for “recklessly causing bodily injury” for striking Campbell in the head with a closed fist while Campbell was handcuffed. Just minutes before the jury was ushered in, an emergency defense motion to dismiss the charges was granted by Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady after she agreed with the defense’s argument that the state had violated discovery by not producing vital Use of Force Reports (UOFR) filled out by the officers involved in the incident that could have potentially exonerated Zink. The jury was dismissed without hearing any testimony.

After the dismissal motion was granted, defense attorney David Sleigh told a reporter of Zink, “He wants to be a Vermont State Trooper, always has. Fifteen years and never an excessive force complaint.”

Zink turned in his level-3 certification on June 30. He resigned from the Vermont State Police that same day.

In January 2022, Campbell filed a $25 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court, naming all three troopers — all of the Shaftsbury Barracks at the time — and several other unnamed parties. Campbell claimed excessive force, denial of timely medical care, failure to intervene, negligence, and assault and battery in his 10-page lawsuit, which has been on hold until Zink’s case was resolved. The Vermont State Police were dismissed as a defendant. The lawsuit instead names the State of Vermont as a defendant.

Trooper Pfendel resigned with two other unrelated troopers in September 2021 amid allegations that they had "varying roles" in producing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards, accusations that prompted an FBI investigation. Trooper Sullivan has also resigned.

Attempts to reach the Vermont State Police for comment on the video were unsuccessful as of press time. Campbell declined comment for this story. An attempt was made to reach Robert Zink for comment through his criminal attorney, David Sleigh. Those attempts were also unsuccessful.

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