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Statement from Governor Phil Scott Regarding Potential Release of Jack Sawyer

April 13, 2018

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Scott today issued the following statement regarding potential release of Jack Sawyer, who had been arrested in February relating to his plans for a school shooting:
“Based on the evidence in the public record, it is clear the individual intended and still intends to carry out a horrific crime. I’ve heard from the school’s superintendent as well as the Rutland County legislative delegation on the fear and frustration the community is feeling, and I share that frustration and concern.
“I’m appalled by Mr. Sawyer’s potential release and I’ve instructed the Department of Public Safety and all agencies to do everything they can to assist the Rutland County States Attorney in holding this individual accountable, help the Legislature close any loopholes in the law his defense attorneys exploit, and support the school and the community with additional law enforcement resources.
“I’m also concerned for the brave young woman who reported him, and I’ve directed the Department of Public Safety to ensure they have open and ongoing communication with law enforcement in her community.
“The first priority has been to do all we can do to support the Fair Haven Police Department ensure the safety of the school and community should this individual be released for any reason. The state, school and local officials are taking the following steps:

  • My Administration is actively working with the Rutland County States Attorney, The Vermont Association of States Attorneys, local law enforcement, the Vermont State Police and the U.S. Attorney to identify any and all legal avenues to keep this individual in custody;
  • The Vermont State Police (VSP) is engaged with all law enforcement partners and school officials in preparation for Mr. Sawyer’s potential release;
  • VSP has worked with State’s Attorney Rose Kennedy who has obtained an emergency Extreme Risk Protection Order as provided for in S.221, signed into law this week, prohibiting Sawyer from possessing firearms;
  • VSP has been in regular communication with Fair Haven School officials and local law enforcement, and in contact with Sawyer’s parents, who have been engaged and cooperative;
  • VSP has offered substantial State Police resources including personnel, enhanced communications tools, patrols and additional onsite safety capabilities;
  • The Fair Haven Police Department has met with school officials, offering increased staffing for the remainder of the school year, including ensuring a school resource officer on all school days; and
  • The Addison-Rutland Supervisory Union, which includes the Fair Haven School District, has also instituted additional safety precautions, including a security audit, limiting access to the school, issuing a No Trespassing Order against Sawyer and installing additional security infrastructure.

“In total, nine law enforcement agencies, including state and local agencies in both Vermont and New York, are prepared to provide resources to the school and community and they are prepared to keep the school and community safe, should this individual be released.
“Beyond these immediate safety precautions, we are taking additional action at the state level. The mere possibility that someone with a clear intent to murder innocent children could be back on the street shows there is an unacceptable loophole in our current criminal law. Even though the new laws we signed Wednesday allow us to prohibit his access to guns, I believe that anyone who takes so many specific steps to prepare to commit a horrific crime, and then confesses he is working to carry it out, needs to be held fully accountable. 
“That’s why I’m calling on the Legislature to act quickly to close existing loopholes relating to the law of ‘attempt’ and to establish a domestic terrorism statute that most other states have -- and to do so immediately and before Fair Haven High School Students return from their April vacation.
“My Administration has already begun working with the State’s Attorneys, Attorney General’s Office and the Legislature to improve our criminal law to address this and we look forward to working with the Legislature to complete this work quickly.”