Crime and Justice

Shaftsbury man sues Vermont State Police for $25 million, alleging troopers assaulted him

Vermont State Police Trooper Robert Zink has been charged with assault, accused of striking a handcuffed suspect. Vermont State Police photo

Shaftsbury resident Christopher Campbell has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Vermont State Police and three troopers, alleging they used excessive force when they arrested him at his home on Feb. 23, court documents show.  

The federal lawsuit, filed Jan. 10, alleges troopers Robert Zink and Jeremy Sullivan “violently assaulted” Campbell while a third trooper, David Pfindel, looked on. The suit also cites unnamed “John/Jane Does #1-10” as defendants. 

The lawsuit alleges that “Zink punched plaintiff in the head, face, and his lower body. All the while, plaintiff was handcuffed and lying face down on the icy, snowy driveway.”

Campbell, 42, seeks $5 million on each of five counts — excessive force, denial of timely medical care, failure to intervene, assault and battery, and negligence. 

Campbell was arrested on multiple charges, including drunken driving and aggravated assault on a police officer. According to the Bennington Banner, Campbell’s blood-alcohol level at that time was 0.14%, above the 0.08 that’s considered proof of intoxication. He later pleaded guilty to a DUI charge.

The incident took place last year on Feb. 23. Campbell alleges state troopers entered his property off Tinkham Road in Shaftsbury without consent as he was trying to free his vehicle in his snowy driveway. 

The charging documents describe a chaotic scene, saying Campbell became combative with troopers trying to take him into custody for suspected drunken driving. 

Zink was placed on paid leave while an investigator from the Williston state police barracks — selected to avoid any conflicts of interest — reviewed the case. Last April, Zink was charged with assaulting Campbell and placed on unpaid leave. He pleaded not guilty. He had been with the state police since 2008.

As VTDigger previously reported, troopers Sullivan and Pfindel — defendants in Campbell’s civil lawsuit — believed Zink used excessive force while arresting Campbell, according to an affidavit written by state police Detective Sgt. Jacob Metayer, who investigated the arrest.

According to court documents, Sullivan was the first officer on the scene and found Campbell attempting to free his truck. Campbell ignored Sullivan’s demands for compliance, and Sullivan eventually called for backup and pointed his taser at Campbell, who continued to refuse orders. Pfindel and Zink arrived and handcuffed a resisting Campbell. 

While Zink and Sullivan escorted him down his driveway, Campbell spun, sending all three men to the ground. Zink then hit Campbell in “the leg or buttocks” before striking him four times in the back of the head with a closed fist, a police affidavit stated.

Sullivan said one of Zink’s punches to Campbell’s head “sounded like a bowling ball hitting the ground,” according to the affidavit. 

Campbell’s lawsuit alleges he was “bleeding profusely” from his face and head as Zink dragged him to a cruiser. The public affidavit in Zink’s criminal case states that Zink and Sullivan performed medical treatment, but Campbell alleges the state troopers “refused to provide plaintiff with immediate medical attention.”

David Sleigh, the attorney for Zink, told the Bennington Banner Monday that his client maintains his innocence. Sleigh did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. 

Correction: This story has been updated to correct who trooper Zink struck during the arrest. 

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Ethan Weinstein

About Ethan

Ethan Weinstein is a general assignment reporter focusing on Windsor County and the surrounding area. Previously, he worked as an assistant editor for the Mountain Times and wrote for the Vermont Standard.

Email: [email protected]

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