First in a four-part series
Five separate fatal shootings of mentally ill people by Maine police in 2011 prompted the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram to examine law enforcement's use of deadly force. Since 1990, police have fired on 101 people, many of them mentally ill, and in every case the state attorney general ruled that the shooting was justified. The newspaper sought to find out why so many mentally ill Mainers were being shot and whether the outcomes were avoidable. The investigation, involving hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of documents, revealed that Maine and rest of the country have failed to employ methods or invest in training that could defuse life-threatening situations with mentally impaired people.
When police pull the trigger in crisis, the mentally ill often are the ones being shot
But is all this bloodshed necessary? An examination finds missed opportunities to avoid the confrontations that have left 33 dead in the past 13 years. In the most volatile of these, unstable people face first responders who are ill-equipped to deal with them.
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Arrest at remote cabin turns deadly, angers public
Police tactics are questioned in a 1992 case in which officers broke down a door to confront a woman with Ã¢ÂÂa history of emotional instability.Ã¢ÂÂ
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Shot and killed by police Jan. 15, 2011, in his aunt's mobile home in Lyman
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PDFs: Attorney General's report
Administrative Review, York Co. Sheriff
Shot and killed by police March 27, 2011, in her mother's home in Kennebunk
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PDFs: Attorney General's report
Administrative Review, Kennebunk PD
Search the database: Police use of deadly force 1990-2012
Monday: Across the nation, there's often a grim acceptance whenever mentally ill people are shot in encounters with police. While more training is necessary, the leadership and data gathering needed to stem the bloodshed are largely absent.
Tuesday: Law enforcement officials in Maine make spotty use of crisis intervention training aimed at defusing confrontations with mentally disturbed people. Issues of cost and staffing limit participation in a program that could protect the mentally ill and officers alike.
Wednesday: So far, the effort to learn from police shootings is mostly misfiring. A new system is in place to review incidents in which deadly force is used, but there has been little success in sharing the results of those reviews and few lawmakers are reading the reports.
The Attorney General's Office reviews all police shootings in Maine. In order to determine whether a shooting is justified, two questions are asked:
Did the officer reasonably believe that deadly force was about to be used against him or someone else?
Did the officer reasonably believe that deadly force was needed to prevent that?
The reviews don't consider potential civil liability, whether any administrative action is warranted, or whether the use of deadly force could have been avoided. The Attorney General's Office has never found that a shooting was unjustified.
Since 2001, Maine police have been involved in confrontations that led to shots being fired at 33 people with mental health, drug or alcohol problems. Twenty-two of those people were killed.
March 16Â James Levier, 60, a deaf man distraught over the sexual abuse of students decades earlier at the Baxter School for the Deaf, is shot to death by Scarborough police when he threatens them with a rifle in a Shop 'N Save supermarket parking lot.
April 28Â Timothy Lever, 32, who is schizophrenic and delusional, is shot and injured by Bangor police responding to a reported home intruder.
Feb. 25Â Michael Buchanan, 61, of Somerville, who has bipolar disorder with psychosis, is shot and killed by Lincoln County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputies who are trying to take him into protective custody.
Dec. 25Â Michael Montagna, 45, a mentally disturbed man who tells police he is being poisoned, is shot at by a Lincoln County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputy in Jefferson, flees and is later caught.
March 7Â Dale Pelletier, 33, who has paranoid schizophrenia, is shot and killed in Acton by York County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputies after a chase in which gunfire is exchanged.
MAY 6Â Christopher Pullen, 36, drinking heavily and distraught over a breakup with his girlfriend, sets his house on fire and is shot and killed by Maine State Police during a standoff in Poland.
Dec. 17Â Vincent Berube, 40, an emotionally disturbed man who has slashed his wrists and chest with a knife, is shot by Lewiston police in the departmentÃ¢ÂÂs parking lot but survives.
Dec. 13Â Jessica Brown, 47, a distraught woman, points a shotgun at a Portland police officer when he steps into her apartment to investigate harassment charges, but she escapes injury when the officer fires three shots at her and misses.
May 26Â Jillian Daniels, 26, who is wanted in connection with armed robberies in New Hampshire and tells police she wants to kill herself or commit Ã¢ÂÂsuicide by cop,Ã¢ÂÂ is shot and wounded by Sanford police during a confrontation outside her grandmotherÃ¢ÂÂs home.
June 6 William Burhoe, 50, a paranoid schizophrenic man from Jay who is quarreling with his adult son, is shot in the leg by a state trooper after Burhoe fires a rifle at police during a confrontation at his home. He survives.
Aug. 26Â Richard Duncan, 26, who is high on cocaine, is shot and killed by a Portland police officer while struggling over a handgun that Duncan displays during an investigation of a suspected drug transaction on a city street.
Sept. 22Â Scott White, 46, an alcoholic with a history of violent behavior, is shot to death by a state trooper in Rumford after he confronts police with two knives and a Taser fails to stop him.
Sept. 23Â Gregori Jackson, 18, who is drunk in violation of his bail conditions, flees from a car pulled over in a traffic stop and is fatally shot during a struggle with a Waldoboro police officer.
Dec. 21Â Jason Wentzell, 28, who is suicidal, is shot and killed by a Gardiner police officer and a state trooper on Route 24, where he is holding his estranged wife and family hostage in a car.
Feb. 16Â Daniel McDowell, 21, who is drunk and has a history of suicide attempts, is fatally shot by state police and Somerset County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputies in a confrontation in Harmony.
May 12Â Douglas Kelley Jr., 40, drunk and upset about a failed relationship, is shot and killed by a game warden and police officer in Indian Township after he points a handgun at them.
Aug. 25Â Michael Norton, 29, suicidal and highly agitated, is fatally shot by a South Portland police officer after Norton confronts police with two knives outside his home during a four-hour standoff.
Sept. 15 Â Bartolo Ford, 47, an Iraq war veteran taking medications for post-traumatic stress disorder, is shot and wounded by an Auburn police officer during a chase in which Ford rams several police cruisers with a dump truck.
Oct. 22 Â Douglas Tenczar, 41, drunk and using marijuana and other drugs, is shot and wounded in his home in Sebago after he points a shotgun at Cumberland County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputies, who have come to question him about displaying a gun during a road rage incident.
March 24Â Barbara Stewart, 47, calls 911 to tell police she plans to kill herself or others and is fatally shot outside her apartment by a Biddeford police officer after she refuses to put her gun down.
April 23 Â Neil Begin, 54, who is intoxicated and emotionally disturbed, is shot and killed by a state trooper and a U.S. Border Patrol agent after he threatens family members and points a rifle at police when they step into his mobile home in Cyr Plantation.
July 8Â James Popkowski, 37, a distraught and disabled veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is fatally shot by a Maine Warden Service officer outside the Togus Veterans Center.
Oct. 4 Â Kemp Lybrook, 29, who is despondent and has threatened to commit Ã¢ÂÂsuicide by cop,Ã¢ÂÂ is shot and wounded by a state police detective during a standoff outside his home in Skowhegan.
Oct. 19 Â Jessica Rood, 30, who is suicidal, drunk and highly agitated, escapes injury when a Clinton police officer is unable to convince her to get out of a locked car and shoots out two tires to keep her from driving while intoxicated.
Jan. 15Â Andrew Landry, 22, who is psychotic and having delusions, is shot and killed by a York County sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs deputy inside the home of LandryÃ¢ÂÂs aunt in Lyman, after a Taser fails to subdue him and he moves toward police with two knives.
Aug. 2Â Katherine Paulson, 39, who has a history of mental illness and violent behavior, is shot to death by a Kennebunk police officer when she approaches him with a knife in her kitchen.
Sept. 25Â Paul Fritze, 41, who is mentally ill and has stopped taking his medication, is shot to death by a state trooper after pointing a handgun at a state police tactical team vehicle parked in the driveway of his home in Farmingdale.
Nov. 10Â Eric Richard, 46, who is suicidal and has left a note to that effect, is fatally shot by a state game warden in the woods outside RichardsÃ¢ÂÂ home in Rumford.
Nov. 24Â Justin Crowley-Smilek, 28, an Army veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder, is shot and killed outside the Farmington police department by a local police officer.
Nov. 29Â Michael Curtis, 46, who is agitated, drunk and has just shot his wifeÃ¢ÂÂs ex-husband, is shot and killed by a state trooper during a standoff in Dover-Foxcroft.
June 25Â Charles Robinson, 75, who is drunk and has a history of alcohol abuse, is shot to death by border patrol agents at his home in Jackman.
Aug. 14Â Warren Dome, 54, who is armed with a knife and called state police barracks making homicidal and suicidal threats, is shot by a state trooper at DomeÃ¢ÂÂs home in Edinburg. He survives.
Oct. 23 Â Leon Tilden, 27, a Lamoine man who family members say has been behaving erratically, shoots and kills his father and uncle before being fatally shot himself after a manhunt by state police.