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.”