By Patrick McArdle
BENNINGTON — A man allegedly shot by a Bennington police officer almost a month ago was arraigned Monday on two felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon but was held because a mental health screener still believes the man presents a threat to himself and others.
Police said Gregory Filo, 42, of Bennington, had come to the Bennington police station April 22 and asked police to kill him.
According to police, Filo had a knife and held it over his head, leaving Sgt. Michael Plusch and two other officers to fear for their safety. Plusch shot Filo in the abdomen. He was taken to the intensive care unit of the Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center for treatment.
According to an affidavit, Plusch told a police officer investigating the shooting that he heard on his radio a dispatcher mistakenly saying that Filo had stabbed someone.
When Plusch saw Filo a short time later, Filo was allegedly holding a knife and wouldn’t obey orders to stop his actions. Plusch admitted to firing one shot from his gun which struck Filo.
Filo didn’t speak during his arraignment Monday. There were no officers present from the Bennington Police Department.
Jeffrey Rubin, who represented Filo, entered innocent pleas on Filo’s behalf and asked Judge David Howard to order a competency evaluation. Pending the completion of that evaluation, there will be no argument about Filo’s bail.
Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said the mental health screeners who testified in court Monday based their evaluation, in part, on the idea that Filo had acted under the command of hallucinations that led to him disobeying police commands and getting shot April 22.
The screener agreed that it was his evaluation of Filo on Monday that led to his opinion that Filo needs an in-patient screening for competency.
Marthage said the state was prepared to ask that Filo be held without bail but wouldn’t make that argument until there was a possibility he could be released.
After the arraignment, Marthage said she has seen, but hadn’t reviewed, a report by the Vermont State Police on the incident April 22.
A shooting involving a police officer triggers an investigation by an outside agency, in this case the Vermont State Police. An affidavit against Filo has already been filed by Detective Sgt. John-Paul Schmidt of the Vermont State Police.
The report will be reviewed by Marthage’s office and the Vermont attorney general’s office to determine if there was any wrongdoing on Plusch’s part. He was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident but Town Manager Stuart Hurd said Monday that Plusch is now back at work.
Because Filo was out of state after the shooting, he was facing extradition back to Vermont from New York to respond to the criminal charges but Marthage said Filo agreed last week to waive extradition.
While Marthage’s office didn’t dispute the request for a competency evaluation, she pointed out that criminal charges were filed against Filo because her office’s charge is to investigate whether a crime was committed during a particular incident and not whether the defendant may or may not have been competent at the time.
According to Marthage, the Vermont Department of Mental Health will determine where Filo is held until the competency evaluation is performed.