by Ivan Shadis
Police shot and killed an armed man on the grounds of Montpelier High School Tuesday morning.
The man is reported to have robbed the Vermont State Employees Credit Union at 9:30 am Tuesday before fleeing across the street onto the grounds of the school, where he was cornered by police. State and local police from nearby communities were called in to surround the grounds while the school itself went into lockdown.
A standoff lasting just over an hour ended at 11:02 am, when state police opened fire on the man from across the school’s athletic field. Video of the shooting taken by WCAX shows the man holding a firearm at his side, which turned out to be a BB gun, before being shot by state police.
Nine officers opened fire on the man after he made threatening and suicidal statements and refused to surrender the handgun, according to a statement released by the Vermont State Police.
Later identified as Nathan Giffin, 32, of Essex, he was transported to the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, where he was pronounced dead. No officers, faculty, or students were hurt according to Vermont State Police.
Giffin attended Montpelier High School as a student in the early 2000’s. His mother, Theresa Giffin, has worked as an educator at Union Elementary School.
Court records on Nathan Giffin show a history of burglaries and robberies, including another bank robbery, stretching back more than a decade. Already on furlough for burglary, Giffin robbed, at gunpoint, the Randolph National Bank in Williamstown on Aug. 25, 2010, for which he served two years in federal prison. As a parolee Giffin burglarized Positive Pie in Montpelier in 2014 for which he was sentenced to two more years in prison. Giffin was arrested as recently as Christmas Day for attempted burglaries at Walmart and Toys R Us in Williston, according to the Williston Police Department. Giffin was scheduled to appear before the Superior Court in Burlington on Jan. 18 to answer for the two burglary charges.
State police are investigating the killing as an officer-involved shooting, according to Colonel Matthew Birmingham of the Vermont State Police. An investigation into the bank robbery being conducted by state and local police is also ongoing, said Birmingham.
Police first notified school officials of a suspected armed robber fortified in the school’s outdoor bleachers at 9:45am, according to Montpelier School District Superintendent Brian Ricca. The school was then put into lockdown, which lasted throughout the standoff and was lifted shortly before noon. Ricca said he was able to alert parents to the lockdown through the school’s electronic notification system at 10:30am.
One mother, Milan Graves, arrived on the scene after being tipped off by her brother, who overheard police chatter on a CB radio. Her son, a senior, was locked in the school without a phone. “He’s probably the only child who doesn’t have a cellphone,” said Graves, who added that the last time there was a lockdown at the school she only learned about it when students posted selfies of themselves huddled in classrooms to Facebook.
Throughout the standoff Washington County Sheriff’s Department officers closed off the driveway to the school, turning away reporters, parents, and even a student driver returning from a lesson. “The doors are locked,” deputies were overheard telling worried parents through rolled down windows before asking them to move along. Officers wearing balaclavas and holding assault rifles were visible patrolling the drive in front of the school shortly before the killing shots rang out.
Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos confirmed at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the man had been shot and killed. “There was a shooting involving law enforcement, and the suspect is deceased,” said Facos.
Facos said he was not then able to offer further details of the shooting, as both the investigation into the shooting and the bank robbery are ongoing.