MALONE -- Federal agents who shot a suspected drug smuggler who allegedly tried to run them over with an ATV have been cleared of any charges by a Franklin County grand jury.

Timothy J. Fleury, 25, of 52 Bird Road, Constable was shot in the lower right torso May 5 as he fled on an all-terrain vehicle as the two U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Burke substation approached him on a ATV trail off Route 122 in the Town of Constable.

District Attorney Derek Champagne called a news conference Thursday to reveal the grand-jury results and provide details for the first time about the agents' actions during a 20-mile chase that ended in the shooting a mile deep in the woods.

He said there is much speculation circulating in the community, and he wanted the public to know the restraint and professionalism that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents Dennis Rascoe and Daniel Taylor displayed during the confrontation, which lasted between two and four seconds.

SENSOR ALARM

Taylor and Rascoe were responding to the activation of a sensor when they went to the Jamison Border crossing near Trout River about 10:10 p.m. and tried to stop two ATVs.

One vehicle, a 700cc model ATV weighing more than 600 pounds, was towing a large trailer loaded with bulging duffel bags designed to carry hockey equipment, Champagne said.

The drivers took off into the woods, pursued by the agents, who figured from the duffel bags that this was an organized smuggling operation.

Taylor and Rascoe went as far as into the underbrush as their vehicles could, then continued the pursuit on foot. They told the grand jury they were able to hear the ATV and trailer stopping at different points in the woods.

FACEOFF

About 30 minutes into the chase, the agents saw Fleury come out of the woods onto an ATV trail near a canopy. He stopped between 15 and 30 feet away as they stood at a bend in the trail with a tree on each side of them.

Champagne said the trail was only as wide as an ATV, so there was nowhere for the vehicle or the men to go.

As the agents walked toward the ATV, thinking Fleury was going to comply with their order to get off the machine, he reportedly gunned the engine, made a sharp left turn and drove at the two men.

"One agent said (that) as he dove out of the way that he could feel the exhaust on his leg," said Tom Carr, the union attorney representing Taylor and Rascoe. "They could've been run over. That is a very heavy vehicle, and it could've done some damage."

SHOTS FIRED

The officers shot 12 bullets at the fleeing ATV and struck Fleury once in the lower torso.

Champagne said one of the agents was using a semi-automatic weapon with the capability of firing 30 rounds but instead used restraint and shot just four bullets.

The rest came from the regular 40-caliber firearm that agents use, which holds 12 rounds.

The district attorney said the shooting took place close to 11 o'clock at night, with no moonlight, in tight, cramped quarters in the woods.

Champagne showed a photograph of Fleury's bloody T-shirt and the bullet hole to quell speculation that he had been shot in the center of his back.

He said the entry wound is consistent with the way an ATV rider has to shift weight to maneuver the machine and matches how the agents described the confrontation and their actions.

SEVERE INJURY

Franklin County Enhanced 911 dispatchers received a call a short time later from 868 Route 122, saying help was needed for a man with a gunshot wound.

Fleury was airlifted to a Vermont hospital, treated and released two weeks later.

Champagne declined to go into detail but said Fleury's injuries are severe and will be long-lasting.

The driver of the second ATV has been identified but not arrested, the DA said.

Fleury has also not been charged, but he is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office for possible charges of assault, attempted assault of a federal officer, possession of marijuana and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

POUNDS OF POT

Champagne said 317 pounds of marijuana, valued at $500,000, was found in the bags, along with a note that said, We owe you 10 more,' scrawled on the packaging. That "shows you the volume we're dealing with," Champagne said.

"This is an organized operation and speaks volumes that Mr. Fleury and others had plenty to lose if they were apprehended."

Fleury is also under review by the grand jury, the D.A. said, but any federal charges could supersede local ones.

The grand jury first heard the case in June but waited until now to make its decision known because Fleury wanted to give testimony at the proceedings. The grand jurors had to wait until his health improved so he could take part, the DA said.

Taylor and Rascoe were placed on administrative leave following the shooting, which is standard procedure. They received counseling and are both back on the job.

draymo@pressrepublican.com

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