Man recovering from wounds suffered in Tunbridge shooting

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-22-2024 10:00 PM

BRIDGEWATER — A 33-year-old man who was shot in the leg during an early morning encounter at a Tunbridge residence more than two months ago is at home in Plymouth, Vt., and recovering after spending nearly six weeks in the hospital and then a physical rehab facility, according to the man’s father.

“He’s doing really well,” said Charles Shackleton about his son Hugh Shackleton’s recovery from the Dec. 20, 2023, mid-morning shooting incident at a residence on Button Hill Road in Tunbridge. “He’s anxious about getting back to work.”

Hugh Shackleton initially spent 10 days in the intensive care unit followed by four weeks at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and then another 10 days at the physical rehab unit at Mt. Ascutney Hospital, Charles Shackleton said.

The initial emergency surgery — a single bullet pierced both legs — lasted seven hours, and Charles Shackleton said a hospital staffer afterward warned him that “we don’t know whether we can save his leg, whether he will be able to walk again.”

The bullet “bashed the femur” on one leg and “hit an artery” in the other, which required “arterial bypass surgery,” Charles Shackleton said.

In total, Hugh Shackleton had “about eight” surgeries during his hospitalization, his father said.

“He was very lucky (the bullet) did not enter higher. He was very lucky they could fix the femur, Very lucky he’s alive. Nerve damage remains to be seen, but he can feel his feet again, which is huge,” Charles Shackleton, who with his wife Miranda Thomas, operate the prominent ShackletonThomas furniture and pottery studios in Bridgewater and are world-renowned crafts designers and artists.

“One of the things that has been incredible is the community support we have received. Not only in our little town of Bridgewater but in the surrounding area. That’s been massive and we are so grateful,” Charles Shackleton said.

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Hugh Shackleton works both for ShackletonThomas and has his own furniture and cabinet making business.

The circumstances that led Hugh Shackleton to appear at Justin Duddie’s residence in Turnbridge at around 6 a.m. on a midweek morning five days before Christmas or what transpired between them are unclear.

Police identified Duddie, 21, as the person who fired the rifle at Shackleton.

Duddie is a 2020 graduate of White River Valley High School whose Facebook profile identifies him as the owner of an auto mechanic service business in Randolph that specializes in Volvos.

Despite Shackleton suffering what Vermont state troopers described as “life-threatening injuries,” Duddie was not taken into custody following interviews with detectives at the scene, and no criminal charges have been brought against him to date.

Vermont State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said via email this week that VSP’s investigation “remains active and ongoing” and “once complete, it will be turned over to the state’s attorney’s office for a review of any potential charges.”

Colin Seaman, Orange County State’s Attorney, said via email on Thursday that “the matter is still under investigation, and we will issue a statement at the conclusion of that investigation.”

Typically responsible parties in a shooting are taken into custody and charged at the scene or quickly following, although there could be reasons why an arrest and charges do not quickly follow or never materialize.

Investigations involving extraction of data from cellphones, for example, can take months to process, from securing and serving search warrants to phone service providers and social media platforms through which suspects may have communicated to competing for prioritization at the state crime lab. A forensic examination of the parties’ phones would be expected to determine if they had a prior relationship or dispute.

Another unknown is whether investigators determined Duddie reacted with a firearm in self-defense because he was threatened by an action on Shackleton’s part.

In the Dec. 22, 2023, news release from Vermont State Police two days following the shooting that identified Shackleton for first time, he was described as “the man” who was shot — a subtle but potentially telling clue that signals investigators assessed that Shackleton’s presence in the encounter was something other than the term “victim” conveys.

Although Vermont does not have a right-to-armed-self-defense law — commonly known as “stand your ground” — the state’s Supreme Court nonetheless ruled in a 1997 case State v. Hatcher that state law does not require a person to retreat when faced with an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

That ruling guides whether charges are to be brought under specific circumstances.

Although it is not known what the police investigation of the shooting will conclude or what decision the prosecutor will ultimately make, both Shackleton and Duddie have retained seasoned Vermont criminal defense attorneys.

Shackleton’s attorney did not respond to messages this week, and Duddie’s attorney declined to comment, citing the open investigation.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.