Brandon man accused of threatening to shoot neighbors reaches plea deal


A Brandon man accused of threatening to shoot neighbors, including one who authored a commentary in USA Today stating he didn’t feel safe in the town, has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

Eric Grenier, 40, pleaded guilty Monday, June 13, in U.S. District Court in Burlington to a charge of being a felon in possession of firearms. His sentencing is set for Oct. 20, 2022.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, though a pre-sentence investigation will determine a federal sentencing guideline range. The guidelines are only advisory and don’t bind the judge, though they are often given great weight during sentencing hearings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples said during Monday’s hearing that he expected the “best case scenario” sentencing guidelines range for Grenier to be 15 to 23 months in prison.

“We are not committed in this plea agreement to recommending a bottom-of-the-guidelines range sentence,” Waples told Judge Christina Reiss. “We believe there are aggravating factors that the court could take into consideration.”

Grenier has been held in jail since his arrest last August, when local and federal authorities seized several guns, including rifles and revolvers, during a raid of his residence on High Pond Road in Brandon. 

Grenier, according to the prosecutor’s filings in the case, repeatedly threatened neighbors, including Michael Shank, over several weeks on High Pond Road. Shank wrote a commentary in USA Today about 10 days before authorities raided Grenier’s residence stating that he didn’t feel safe in Brandon and believed he needed to move.

“White extremism is winning in my Vermont town. I’m selling my animal sanctuary and moving,” the commentary was headlined. A subtitle stated, “The assault-weaponed bullies are winning on my road, and I refuse to weaponize myself to fight back. My town is unsafe if you’re non-white or unarmed.”

A court filing in the case included statements from Grenier’s wife, who said she was afraid to contact authorities to report Grenier because he talked about engaging in a shootout with police if that happened.

Neighbors reported to police that Grenier threatened to shoot them during verbal altercations while armed and using racist slurs, according to the filings. Grenier also allegedly spoke about taking sniping positions and shooting them.

Grenier faces a slew of other pending charges in state court in Rutland, including several counts of criminal threatening. A charge of simple assault as a hate crime alleges Grenier’s conduct “was maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color or ancestry.”

Waples, the prosecutor, said in federal court Monday that law enforcement found four firearms when they raided Grenier’s residence in August 2021, including two long guns “that were in plain view.” Two handguns were found in a cabinet alongside a prescription medicine bottle bearing Grenier’s name.

Grenier’s prior felony convictions were for burglary and cultivating marijuana, according to the filing.

Shank, reached Monday, blamed the situation on Vermont’s gun laws and mental health services, which he said were both inadequate. “Vermont should be pleading guilty,” he said, because “it’s Vermont that allowed this to happen.”

“That the feds even had to intervene here after it got really bad shows how much Vermont is at fault because Vermont laws couldn’t step up to protect public safety so the feds had to get involved,” he said. “Vermont just needs to get it together when it comes to public safety.”

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