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To the Editor:

This letter concerns the shooting of Robert "Woody" Woodward December 2nd in the Unitarian Church in Brattleboro, Vermont. As a long time friend of Mr. Woodward, having known him for nearly 20 years, I would like to address some of the misconceptions that are being put forward concerning his character, and also to express my outrage at the senseless, unnecessary and violent manner in which his life was snuffed out by apparently trigger happy law enforcement authorities.

Some have suggested that Woody was a "loner" or a "lonely person."  Let me tell you that, as someone who was an extremely close friend of his since the early 1980s, nothing could be further from the truth.  In the many years in which we knew one another, I was never out of regular contact with, and usually saw him every few months in person unless he was traveling.

Woody was a kind, gentle and peaceful man who would never hurt anyone or anything.  He was  vegetarian, and someone, who, as the old saying goes, "wouldn't hurt a fly" - let alone another human being.  He was considerate of others, and empathetic to those who suffered.  AT my recent wedding this past August, where Woody was one of my groomsmen, he made a special effort to encourage my wife's 93 year old grandmother to get out of her wheelchair and dance.  She passed away shortly after our wedding., and so it was her last dance. This is the kind of man my friend was.  He was caring and kind, and he devoted his life to helping others.  He did not deserve to die in this violent manner, at the hands of those who wield guns for a living; and, if we are to judge from many recent incidents - including the infamous Diallo case in New York - are all too ready to resort to gunplay to achieve their ends.

According to eye-witness accounts, he threatened no one but himself; and yet, authorities decided to use deadly force that was clearly disproportionate to the situation.  Why?  Some have suggested that the issues are systemic, related to the way in which law enforcement authorities are trained.  This may be true, and significant reforms are surely needed in this area.  But this, in my view, in no way absolves the individuals who pulled the trigger.  They chose to use deadly force when, by all accounts, it was clearly unnecessary.

Because of this inappropriate use of force, I am deprived of my best friend.  The years that I looked forward to spending with him in the future, as we all grew old together, will never happen. Any future children that my wife and I will have will never have the opportunity to know this dear man who was so kind to children throughout his life.  All of this has been stolen from me by some over-zealous cops who chose to shoot first and ask questions later.  I will not rest until they are brought to justice - not the violent, "frontier style" 'justice' that Woody received, but true justice, achieved through the legal system, and not at the end of a gun barrel.

Stephen Monroe Tomczak

Wallingford, Connecticut

Please note - if you wish to reach me directly, you can call me at (203)-679-0368