Crime and Justice

Officer who shot and wounded Cavendish man in Ludlow was still in training

Zachary Paul. Photo via Ludlow Police Department Facebook page

The Ludlow police officer who shot and seriously wounded a Cavendish man following a pursuit Monday night was a new recruit on patrol with another officer as part of training, according to a press release from Vermont State Police. 

Zachary Paul, 21, joined the Ludlow Police Department in July after graduating from the Vermont Police Academy and was accompanied by his field training officer, Jeffrey Warfle, at the time of the shooting, state police said.

Paul shot Michael Mills, 35, of Cavendish, after a police chase in Ludlow in which Mills rammed his vehicle into the two officers’ police cruiser, state police said.

Mills, who police said was critically wounded, remained hospitalized Wednesday afternoon at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Hours before the chase, Mills had repeatedly made 911 calls reporting complaints, threats and making suicidal statements, according to state police. 

Paul and Warfle were in the cruiser and spotted Mills in a vehicle around 9:30 p.m. Monday when the pursuit ensued, with Mills eventually crashing his car into a tree on South Hill Road in Ludlow, state police said. 

Following the crash, Warfle approached the vehicle and opened the front passenger door before yelling “gun” several times, according to an initial report from state police. That’s when Paul fired a single round from his handgun, striking Mills in the head, state police said.

State police did not indicate where Paul was when he fired his gun. The release indicated police recovered a handgun from Mills’ vehicle, but did not say where the firearm was located or whether Mills had pointed it at the officer. 

“Mills did not appear to have fired a round during the encounter, but a subsequent examination of the gun indicated that it might have malfunctioned,” state police said in the release.

State police said investigators had reviewed the video from body cameras worn by the officers. 

Adam Silverman, a Vermont State Police spokesperson, said state police do not typically publicly release video footage while such an investigation is ongoing. Asked Wednesday if state police would release the video in this case, Silverman replied that he was not aware of any plans to do so. 

Warfle, the field training officer, has served with Ludlow police for two and half years. 

The 41-year-old had previously worked as a Rutland City police officer and was the subject of a Brady letter in February 2019. The letters are filed when an officer’s credibility is called into question and often mean the end of an officer’s career. 

Then-Rutland County State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy drafted the letter. She said that Warfle cited a person on a disorderly conduct charge, but following a complaint admitted that the person’s conduct did not rise to the level of a charge. 

Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said Wednesday that he wasn’t sure when Warfle left the department. “He tendered his resignation to pursue opportunities elsewhere,” Kilcullen said.  

Both Warfle and Paul were placed on paid administrative leave in Ludlow as the state police investigation continues into whether the shooting was legally justified.

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