BARRE, Vt. (AP) — A mother who was upset about losing custody of her child fatally shot a Department for Children and Families worker on Friday, state authorities said.
A suspect was taken into custody, Barre police Chief Tim Bombardier told the Burlington Free Press.
The shooting happened outside a state office building in Barre, a city of about 10,000 residents, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office said.
“While we won’t know all the details for some time, the initial reports are horrific and break my heart,” Shumlin said in a statement.
Barre City Mayor Thom Lauzon said the worker’s shooting death was a tragedy not just for his city but for the state.
“My heart goes out to the victim and the victim’s family,” he said.
The identity of the female employee, who had just left a DCF office when she was shot, was being withheld pending notification of her family.
The DCF has dealt with recent criticisms over its handling of cases, which prompted a new law.
A special legislative committee was set up to investigate the state child welfare system after the deaths last year of two toddlers who had been involved with DCF, 2-year-old Dezirae Sheldon, of Poultney, and 15-month-old Peighton Geraw, of Winooski.
Murder charges are pending against Dezirae’s stepfather and Peighton’s mother, who have pleaded not guilty.
The new child safety law shifts the state’s priority in protecting children, focusing on their well-being instead of on an imperative to reunite them with their families.
Shumlin said DCF employees deal with challenging family situations and do their work “out of their dedication to the children and families of this great state.”
“To lose one of our own in the course of that duty,” he said, “is shocking and heartbreaking.”
Department for Children and Families staff members were directed to go out this weekend only on emergency calls and accompanied by law enforcement.
The DCF worker’s shooting happened on the last day of work for state police director Col. Tom L’Esperance, the Free Press reported. A retirement dinner for him was taking place in South Burlington, about 40 miles away, when reports of the shooting were broadcast, and troopers left to go to the scene, the newspaper said.