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Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
April 5, 2002
Author: ANNIE HUNDLEY Reformer Staff
BRATTLEBORO — A Canal Street resident who threatened to blow people up with a grenade was tackled and arrested Thursday evening after a three-hour standoff with police.
Joseph J. Scione, 51, made threats from his apartment’s second-story balcony at 125 Canal St., at times brandishing knives and a grenade.
The street in front of the apartment building after the arrest was strewn with items he had thrown throughout the standoff, including a camouflage bow, empty pink pharmacy bottles for drugs such as Zoloft and Amaryl, several knives, slices of bread, a black model helicopter, and a book called “The Vietnam Experience: Images of War.”
The conflict began around midday when Scione’s ride to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in White River Junction did not show up as planned, according to his wife, Sharon Scione. She had been dealing with him for about two hours as he got more and more upset when he asked to talk to his brother, Chuck, a police officer in Salisbury, Mass. The Salisbury dispatcher notified Brattleboro police who responded to the scene and shut down Canal Street. School was already out for the day.
A sniper positioned himself across the street at the Canal Street School’s play structure and town and state police as well as the Brattleboro Fire Department, Vernon police and the Windham County Sheriff’s Department responded. Some officers stood behind cars with rifles or pistols and some were actively negotiating with Scione, while others made a makeshift central command next door at Gouger’s Market.
Scione goes to the VA hospital twice a month, according to his wife, to speak with a counselor about his experiences in Vietnam.
“He wanted to talk with someone who understands what Vietnam was like,” she said as she watched the standoff. “He just wanted to take out the town.
“I think he just wanted somebody to talk to,” she added. “He just needed to let some steam off somehow, some way.”
Sharon Scione said her husband, whom she met 14 years ago, served in Vietnam as a Navy Seal from 1968 to 1972. However, family and official sources could only confirm that he had served some time in the Navy, and couldn’t say whether he had gone to Vietnam or not.
During the standoff, police Detective Michael Gorman and a state police negotiator were talking with Scione both on the phone and with a megaphone. Scione was making general threats that he would blow people up, Gorman said, and that he felt slighted when he returned from Vietnam. Scione demanded to be airlifted to the VA hospital, and also demanded to be given beer.
During the course of the afternoon, Scione coated his face with green camouflage paint, played the harmonica, popped pills and blasted music, including “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Creedence Clearwater Revival, from his balcony.
During negotiations with Gorman, Scione spoke on a phone, occasionally throwing it over the balcony, appearing frustrated, and later pulling it back up by the cord.
Scione came down to the first-floor entry at about 6 p.m. Police were trying to get Scione to roll away his grenade but, suddenly, he threw it. Officers pulled back, shouting “he threw the grenade,” and stayed back to see if it would detonate. But Scione hadn’t removed the pin.
A negotiator approached an unarmed Scione with a six-pack of Budweiser when several officers tackled him to the ground. Scione remained on the ground for about a minute as they handcuffed him, and he was taken to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital by Rescue Inc.
Police Chief John Martin said police wanted to have Scione checked out because they had seen him take a number of medications. Scione was treated in the emergency room and was medically cleared and released by 8 p.m., according to nursing supervisor Jon Todd. Attempts to place Scione in a hospital in Massachusetts or Vermont were unavailing, and he was ultimately lodged at the police department for lack of $5,000 bail. He is scheduled to answer charges of possession of destructive devices and simple assault today in Windham District Court.
Scione’s stepsister Tracey Donovan, stepbrother Robert Hughes, and son Jason Scione spoke with the Reformer Thursday. According to Hughes, of Salisbury, their mother had spoken with Scione earlier that day and he was drunk.
Scione had recently told Hughes that he was depressed.
Jason Scione, 31, of Newburyport, Mass., said he had only seen his father about 10 times in his life.
“The weird thing about it is I know my father had a few guns,” he said. “I never thought it would turn out like this.”
Donovan and Hughes also said they hadn’t seen their brother much.
“He ran away when he was a young kid, 15 or 16,” Hughes said. “He’s been on the road ever since. He’s had a hard time, believe me.”
Scione brandished the grenade and knives during the standoff. He also had firearms in the apartment that he “did not present,” according to Martin. However, when state police were initially moving the crowd on Canal Street back from the scene they were warned that he had a rifle.
Martin said there were more explosives in the apartment.
Just a few days before, Scione had mildly burned his face, according to Martin, after he accidentally ignited some of his gunpowder.
Scione was arrested Wednesday night for trespassing at Mike’s Restaurant and Bar on Elliot Street. He had been issued a trespass warning earlier Wednesday evening. When an officer saw him re-entering the bar, he was arrested. He was held at the Brattleboro lock-up until he was sober.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s intense standoff, officials and Sharon Scione seemed relieved.
“I’m happy,” she said. “The team of people did a wonderful job of getting it under control without incident. I’m glad he’ll get the help that he needs. I’ve been his therapist for years.”
Canal Street remained closed until 7:20. Martin praised all law enforcement agencies that responded, saying their technique was “absolutely perfect.”
Reformer reporters Tom Marshall and Patrick Armstrong contributed to this report.
Record Number: tfront.1st
(c) 2002 Brattleboro Reformer. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
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Armed man subdued after 3-hour standoff