When St. Johnsbury Police responded to a report of a honking horn on Highland Avenue at 2 a.m. on June 19 they found a shirtless John Allen in his truck with a black eye, a loaded .22 caliber rifle and rambling about being pursued by hit-men in the darkness.

“There’s people up there,” said Allen to Sgt. Lester Cleary and Sgt. Aaron Rivard.

“They might shoot, they might shoot,” said Allen before suddenly shouting a warning to his imaginary pursuers.

“This is America! We can defend ourselves!” yelled Allen who got out of his truck and ran to take cover in his car port.

“Defend yourselves,” said a clearly frightened Allen. “I’m telling you there’s a bunch of them.”

“There’s nobody up there, John,” responded Sgt. Cleary

“Yes there is,” warns Allen. “There’s probably over 20…stay moving, stay moving,”

“Protect yourself,” he whispers to Cleary as Rivard takes control of the rifle in Allen’s truck. “I’m telling you. They’re up there. I’m positive of it. Over 20. I’m telling you for sure…I want them to know we’re gonna defend ourselves…They got spotlights.”

The entire incident is recorded on St. Johnsbury police body cam video released Wednesday in response to a freedom of information request by The Caledonian-Record.

Less than four hours after police responded to his home in St. Johnsbury, Allens’ dead body was found floating in Joe’s Pond in West Danville.

The state medical examiner says Allen, 62, died from drowning. Exactly how Allen ended up in the water remains a mystery. Vermont State Police said Wednesday that detectives are waiting for toxicology results but foul play is not suspected.

The body cam video clears up questions about how and why Allen left his home and traveled to West Danville and the extent of local police involvement with him in the early morning hours of June 19.

Allen can be seen and heard on the video telling police he was too afraid to stay at his home because people were trying to kill him and asking for the officers’ help in leaving safely so he could go to his camp at Joe’s Pond for the night.

“I’m not safe, they’re professionals,” said Allen as he talked with officers in his kitchen. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to stay here…I’m gonna leave when you leave. I’m gonna go up to Joe’s Pond.”

Police found empty heroin bags in Allen’s kitchen But Allen told them he hadn’t been drinking or using drugs, that he was in the BAART methadone program, that the track marks on his arm were old and healing and that he got his black eye after being assaulted in his home by unknown assailants. Allen also told the officers that someone had stolen some of his personal checks and that they wanted to kill him.

The officers, who told superiors they detected no signs of impairment from alcohol or drugs, unloaded Allen’s rifle and agreed to follow him to the town line.

“You guys protect me,” said Allen. “Watch for them. Watch me go out of town because they’re professionals. The kind that don’t go to jail. So protect yourselves and me. And stay moving…”

Allen then grabs his unloaded rifle and scurries to his truck where he drives away and is escorted by police to the Interstate 91 bridge on Route 2 without incident.

However, a short time later Joe’s Pond residents called state police to report Allen was armed with a rifle and knocking on doors.

Troopers were on their way when they learned that Allen had left his gun on the porch at one residence.

“Troopers arrived, secured the firearm into evidence, searched multiple camps — including one owned by Mr. Allen’s family — but were unable to locate him, and issued a ‘be on the lookout’ alert for Mr. Allen,” said Vermont State Police Public Information Officer Adam Silverman. “They planned to resume the search during daylight.”

Allen’s body was found by Joe’s Pond camp owner Vaden Cobb about 5:50 a.m. Cobb told investigators he saw something in the water and took his kayak out to investigate where he found Allen’s body and alerted authorities. Allen was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:24 a.m.

St. Johnsbury Police Chief Tim Page has ordered an internal investigation into his department’s handling of the incident. The investigation, being conducted by retired Vermont State Police investigator Daniel K. Troidl, is not yet complete.

But Page did say a mental health screener should have been called-in to evaluate Allen.

“When I looked at the video it was clear to me that this might be a case involving mental health issues,” said Page. “Clearly we need to have our officers better trained in this area and I’ve already reached out to the Department of Mental Health to have all of our officers undergo further training in this area.”

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(9) comments

Morris

This is sad no he may not have been fixed by being taken in that night but he may still be alive even if it meant he had been laying in the ER for a few nights. I agree the system needs help in many areas, it’s scary to think he was let to drive off In that state of mind.

Dannymarshall31

RRSTARK I agree on the 5150. I live in vegas and the officers have the right to take a individual in custody if they are a harm to themselves and others. They then take them to the hospital where they are held for 24 hours and are evaluated and then given treatment. Also my mother help to get officers trained specifically in dealing with mental health calls. They are called CIT officers. If it is a mental health issue you call 911 and ask for a cit officer and they send officers who are trained specifically. Their should be a mental health court who are also have mental health facilities and rehabilitation facilities involved. There are many different faces of mental illness and officers should be trained and knowledgeable in that field. Sometimes it's a individual who didn't take their medication. Self medicating because they cannot afford their meds. Autism training should also be trained. This situation is tragic in many levels. If you have a individual who is showing signs of paranoia and has a loaded gun would be my concern. Unloading the weapon and then give it back. Sorry but he probally has access to more. Empty drug paraphernalia I would have taking more seriously. Obviously something was making his actions escalate. Hopefully this will not happen again and officers can get the training they need to help all people of our society.

RRSTARK

Good points Danny. In California, law enforcement officers receive some training in the academy concerning mentally ill persons. My former very large Sheriff’s Department had MET teams available for mentally ill person calls. They consist of a Sergeant and a registered nurse highly trained in mental health issues. I want to make a point that from Beverly’s comments, it does not sound like Vermont has the same tools for their law enforcement officers. Without any available authority regarding mental illness, the officers involved in the incident may have had no way of taking the individual into custody. I’m sure they used everything available to them during the incident. Mental illness is a very difficult situation. The person’s rights must be balanced with the safety of the individual and the public.

Truth seeker 11

How do you people know someone wasn’t really trying to kill him ????? The police in that town don’t do anything about a lot of things !! There’s 10 year old kids chasing adults with knife sticks breaking in cars and the police do not do a thing!!! I know a woman who was being threatened and staked she called the police and told the officer she wanted to file charges and something so the persons couldn’t bother her anymore. She told the officer 3 times do not give them My address please, the court has told this person many times my address is private and they could not have it. The officer calls the harasser and gives them The woman’s address!!!!! Bathe harraser was sending her pictures of her house and the police threatened to arrest the woman who called them for help !!!!! They charged a woman last year for false info when her place was broke in but she bought her stolen thing bsvk from the guys ex . The state spent a lot taking her to court n she didn’t do anything wrong!!!! It’s not the people it’s the officers . They do not care . If he wasn’t drink why would he think anyone was trying to kill him ?? And why would they let him go ???

Truth seeker 11

I know a woman who was assaulted called the cops they told her she had to stay home . Her roommate told her to leave and she walked to the niebors place 2 feet from her porch they jumped out arrested her took her to the office then hospital and she was asking yelling by this point what is going on what I do . The mental health worker they called in knew her hated her and she orders her to be shoot up wit the b52 shoot 4 times and then sent her to a mental Floor at a hospital 3-4 hours away from her home . The hospital could see she wasn’t supposed to be there realessex her but that stuffs not ok .,they didn’t even ask why there was empty heron bags there ???? He was probably getting high but I heard in town some girl junkie robbed him the night before.

beverly

Danny, unfortunately Vermont has neither the mental health professionals, facilities or laws to adequately care for the mentally ill. The only care adults with autism get is by untrained caregivers and there is no professional expertise to be found for adults. I recently helped a mother to get over $500,000 for her adult autistic son and there is no autism professional in the State to be a part of the program. The program will have to be built from the bottom up. Until then son's life is in danger every day isolated in a remote plywood boarded up cabin, supervised by a person who is on the adult abuse registry and staffed by people who know nothing about autism. This is a scandal that needs national media attention.

beverly

Nothing would have been done if mental health had been called. Some screener would have suggested Mr. Allen be seen in six weeks or six months for the next available appointment. If the victim was receiving care from BAART he should have had a good psychiatric evaluation and been monitored for mental health issues if he had them. There is no system of mental health care in Vermont and few facilities to provide care. How many beds at the current Vermont State Hospital actually are providing treatment and how many are being used for the criminally, dangerous mentally ill? Is the VSH fully staffed by permanent employees or served by expensive temporary workers?

RRSTARK

Hi Beverly. I live in California, but own land and will be retiring in Vermont in a couple years. Here we have the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. It gives law enforcement officers the authority to take individuals who are mentally ill into custody. The individual is then transported to a mental health hospital for an involuntary 72 hour evaluation. This can occur under three scenarios. The individual is a danger to themselves or others (5150 WIC) or gravely ill (5008 WIC). Gravely ill is when, due to their mental illness, they are unable to provide for their food, clothing or shelter. Not sure if Vermont has a similar authority for their law enforcement. It’s a great tool for law enforcement officers to provide safety for mentally ill and the public.

beverly

Bring your ideas, laws and expertise to Vermont when you come. Our mental health care is poor. People can wait hours, days and even weeks in emergency rooms before a mental health bed is found for them. People have the right to not get help even when they clearly demonstrate inability to care for themselves. Sad when they could be helped.

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