Police say cruiser caused Dover death

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(Host) Vermont State police have identified the trooper who they say was driving the patrol car that struck and killed a 22 year old Dover man early Sunday morning.

State Police Director James Baker says the death is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.

But Baker says that based on what he knows now, the death was a tragic accident.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Colonel Baker began the news briefing by publicly extending his condolences to the family of Gerald Peterson Junior.

Police say Peterson was struck by two police cars early Sunday morning. Baker said police have concluded – based on autopsy evidence and damage to the vehicles — that the car driven by Trooper John Waitekus killed Peterson. Baker said Waitekus was traveling south on Route 100 when he saw something in the road.

(Baker) He attempted to avoid the object, but was unable to maneuver around it, and at that moment realized it was a person lying in the roadway.

(Dillon) A second state trooper, Frank LeBombard, also hit Peterson.

Both officers are on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

Baker says police want to know why Peterson was in the road. He says Peterson did have something to drink that night, but they won’t know how much until toxicology tests come back in about 6 to 8 weeks.

(Baker) We are reasonably assured based upon that autopsy that the injuries are consistent with an individual that would have been lying prone.

(Dillon) Police did not test either trooper following the accident for drug or alcohol use.

Baker said police didn’t have a reason to test to see if the drivers were impaired.

(Baker) What I will tell you is that as part of this investigation, as  fatal accident, we are in the process right now of tracing back the activity of the two troopers 48 hours prior to the accident.

(Dillon) Attorney General William Sorrell said Vermont does not require drug or alcohol testing in a fatal accident.

(Sorrell) There’s no law and I don’t know that there’s a written protocol on that as far as the state police is concerned. The reality is that when an average citizen is involved in a fatality then the typical protocol is to have a Breathalyzer test to determine the presence of alcohol or blood test to look at alcohol or drugs in the system.

(Dillon) Baker said police are trying to learn why Peterson was lying in the road. He said police have identified a third car that was in the area at the time. They have questioned the driver of that vehicle, and Baker said that car and driver are also the focus of the investigation.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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