MONTPELIER, Vermont — A police officer was justified when he shot and killed an unarmed drug suspect during a raid because the suspect moved his arm in a way another officer thought was consistent with drawing a firearm, according to a report by the state attorney general's office released Thursday.
The report into the April 4 shooting in a Brattleboro motel found that police Sgt. Mark Carignan shot Michael Santiago twice with a shotgun after Santiago refused to show his hands while police forced their way into a room.
Police had a warrant to search the room for drugs and to take Santiago into custody for suspected violations of the conditions of release in a separate drug case.
According to the report, the shooting unfolded like this:
Before the raid, officers were warned the people in the room could be armed. They also were aware that during an earlier incident Santiago had possessed a knife and resisted arrest.
While police were pushing their way into the room, Santiago moved toward a dresser in the back. Once the door was open Carignan repeatedly told Santiago to show his hands.
Santiago ignored the commands and kept his right hand behind his back. Other officers told investigators it appeared Santiago was holding something.
Carignan then warned Santiago that if he didn't comply he could be shot.
"In response, Santiago advanced toward the officers while moving his right shoulder and arm — an officer described the motion as being consistent with drawing a firearm," the attorney general's office said in a news release. "When Santiago did so, Carignan shot him twice with his shotgun."
Santiago, 35, died at the scene.
Police found drugs and cash in the room but no firearms.