Neil Begin and Sandy Parent lived together for 30 years, raising three sons of whom they were very proud. Finally, Begin – increasingly aware of his own mortality – decided it was time to get married. They set a date in July 2010.
But by the end of April, Begin was dead, killed by a Maine State Police trooper and a U.S. Border Patrol agent as he wielded a rifle inside his Aroostook County home.
An inquiry by the state Attorney General’s Office, required by law in all police shootings, found that the two officers were justified in using deadly force because it was reasonable to expect Begin was going to shoot them.
Parent and Begin met in the 1970s when they were both part of a circle of friends in Van Buren.
“We had fun when we were together. He liked to dance. He was a good person to be with,” said Parent. Begin was married at the time, but after he and his wife split up, he and Parent started dating.
They moved to Cyr Plantation, a rural hamlet along the road to Caribou comprised mostly of potato farms. For work, the two did planting, harvesting and seed cutting for the local farms.
Parent had a child from a previous relationship, and the couple had two of their own.
Begin stayed home and cared for the children as they grew up. They worked in the garden together, and when the kids were older and playing sports, he watched most of their games.
Begin struggled with alcohol, but had been sober for five years before January 2010, Parent said. That month, his stepfather became very ill, and a series of other family calamities followed. A friend died, and Begin’s son was in a serious car accident. Then another friend died.
Begin was drinking regularly again.
“He said he was going to stop, and he kept saying he was going to stop,” Parent said.
He also had health problems, suffering from various chronic ailments in his hands, arms, legs and feet. He developed cataracts in his eyes.
Begin was very anxious and stressed out, Parent said. Then, a feud erupted with local youths. Parent said they initially harassed their son, and later the entire family.
“The last week, it was just hell,” said Parent. “He wouldn’t sleep. He had all the curtains pulled up and he would just watch to see if anyone was coming in the yard.”
The day before he died, Begin was irate, fighting with their son over his live-in girlfriend. According to a state investigation, he had pointed a hunting rifle at his wife, his son and the girlfriend. The following morning, he ordered all three of them to leave.
“He hadn’t slept in a week. He hadn’t eaten,” Parent said. “When I left here, he was sitting in a chair, crying. I promised him, ‘I will be right back.’ I never saw him (alive) again.”
Parent went to her mother’s home in Van Buren, and her mother called police. Parent and the others were interviewed by Trooper Robert Flynn and described Begin’s condition.
Flynn and two U.S. Border Patrol agents drove to Begin’s house to arrest him for criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, according to an Attorney General’s Office investigation.
The trooper ordered Begin to come outside and to leave the gun behind. When he did not, the trooper looked in and saw Begin run to the rear of the mobile home with a rifle.
The trooper forced open the exterior door and the officers went in. They spotted Begin at the end of the hallway, working the rifle’s bolt action, then raising the gun to point at the officers, the investigation said. Begin was shot five times by Flynn and Agent Robert Kipler.
He died later at a hospital. His blood alcohol content was nearly 0.25 percent, three times the legal limit for driving.
An incident report by the state police found flaws in the way the situation was handled. Specifically, it said the officers did not conduct a risk assessment, which could have led to a request for more support, and they did not develop a tactical plan even though they knew there were weapons and that Begin had been drinking.
Parent says she still has nightmares two years later.
“It’s very, very hard,” she said. “There hasn’t been a day I haven’t cried or broken down at some point, but I have to hide it because I don’t want to upset (their son) and I don’t want people to see me breaking down. I live in my little shell.”