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Burlington police officer denies assaulting girlfriend

By Jennifer Costa
Ethan Thibault
Cpl. Ethan Thibault walked into a Queen City courtroom charged with beating his girlfriend. The 14-year veteran of the Burlington police force was flanked by his parents and brother, a sheriff's deputy, at the court.

"There's always a greater concern when it's a police officer because it's a matter of public trust," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.

Thibault is accused of pushing and slapping his girlfriend over the weekend after she allegedly returned home late from a concert. But he says she started the fight, claiming their three-year relationship was over and he didn't want her in his Hinesburg home.

Prosecutors say this is not the only allegation and point to other violent encounters with the victim.

"The allegation is that he hit her, struck her in the face and caused a bloody nose. The affidavit outlines a history of alleged abuse. Obviously this is a very serious case," Donovan said.

Thibault pleaded not guilty to three misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse. The court ordered him to turn over all his firearms and undergo a mental health evaluation. Prosecutors say that requirement stems from an incident last summer after Thibault allegedly held a loaded gun to his head and threatened to kill himself.

"Obviously this raises major concerns for the well-being of the victim, of the community and Mr. Thibault," Donovan said.

The victim says she did not report the abuse in the past, fearing her boyfriend would lose his job.

Thibault was taken into custody Wednesday after voluntarily speaking with state police. He's currently on paid administrative leave pending internal and criminal investigations.

"It's a domestic violence issue. It's one of the things we fight against and when an officer is alleged to have committed it, that makes it all the worse," Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said.

Burlington's new police chief reminds the public Thibault is innocent until proven guilty and he vows an impartial review.

"I need citizens to know that when an allegation is made like this, we don't close ranks," del Pozo said.

Thibault is the same officer who gunned down a mentally ill suspect in 2013, shooting Wayne Brunette four times after Brunette allegedly charged the officers with a shovel. Thibault and his partner were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say it's unclear at this point if Thibault's arrest will affect any of his pending cases.

Thibault is the third Burlington officer arrested this year. In March, Nathan Harvey was charged with domestic assault. He pleaded not guilty, but has since resigned from the force. And in July, Ofc. Leanne Werner was charged with drunk driving with death resulting for a fatal car crash in St. Albans.

Related articles: Citizens Rise Against Police Brutality Nationwide

Calif Police Officer Arrested For Domestic Violence

Cops Arrested for Domestic Violence

Police officers three times more likely to commit domestic violence

Officer of the Year Arrested for Domestic Violence

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