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Thursday July 31, 2014

A Portland Press Herald Special Report: Read Part 1; Read Part 2; Read Part 3; Read Part 4

    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 the rest of the country have failed to employ methods or invest in training that could defuse life-threatening situations with mentally impaired people.

    Part 1

    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.
    Read the story

    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 ‘a history of emotional instability.’
    Read the story


    Shot and killed by police Jan. 15, 2011 in his aunt’s mobile home in Lyman
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Administrative Review, York Co. Sheriff

    Katherine Paulson
    Shot and killed by police March 27, 2011 in her mother’s home in Kennebunk
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Administrative Review, Kennebunk PD

    Part 2

    Across nation, an unsettling acceptance when the mentally ill are killed
    Even as they face a growing number of disturbed people, police often lack crisis training. And the leadership and data-gathering needed to stem the bloodshed are largely absent.
    Read the story

    Limited data on police, mentally ill encounters

    Pulling trigger sparks upheaval in life, emotions of Maine officer
    The cop who shot a knife-wielding man in a wheelchair says the emotional scars last a long time.
    Read the story

    Michael Norton
    Shot and killed by police Aug. 25, 2008 at his home in South Portland
    Read the story
    PDF: Attorney General’s report

    James Levier
    Shot and killed by police March 16, 2001 in store parking lot
    Read the story
    PDF: Attorney General’s report

    Part 3

    Maine police make spotty use of crisis training
    Issues of cost and staffing limit participation in a program that could protect the mentally ill and officers alike.
    Read the story

    Crisis Intervention Team model gives police tools, education

    Smart tactics can avoid bloodshed
    Police can defuse an armed confrontation through patience, pulling back or knowing how a person with a specific illness might behave.
    Read the story

    Portland develops tactical expertise – and shares it
    It’s one of six national learning sites on police response to the mentally ill, and many officers have received special training.
    Read the story

    Tasers are proven non-lethal tool, but some Maine police forgo them
    The non-lethal weapons – including a long-range shotgun described as an ‘incredible resource’ – catch on slowly in Maine, where investment in equipment and training can be burdensome.
    Read the story

    Neil Begin
    Shot and killed by police April 23, 2010 at his mobile home in Cyr Plantation
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Incident Review Team Report,
    Maine State Police

    Justin Crowley-Smilek
    Shot and killed by police Nov. 24, 2011 in Farmington
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Incident Review Team Report, Farmington PD

    Part 4

    Families mostly powerless when mentally ill adult resists help
    Legal protections make it difficult to force treatment, but one man’s personal tragedy has led to changes.
    Read the story

    PDF: Amy Bruce’s letter to her son Will

    Lives at stake, but inaction stalls chance to save them
    A new system in Maine evaluates deadly force incidents, but little is done to share the findings, and few lawmakers actually read the reports.
    Read the story

    The questions are basic, the answers are few
    Confidentiality laws and missing data block the public from informed views about shootings and accountability.
    Read the story

    James Popkowski
    Shot and killed by police July 8, 2010 outside Togus Veterans Center
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Incident Review Team Report, ME Warden Service

    Paul Fritze
    Shot and killed by police Sept. 25, 2011 in Farmingdale
    Read the story
    PDFs: Attorney General’s report
    Critical Incident Review, Maine State Police

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 16  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 28  Timothy Lever, 32, who is schizophrenic and delusional, is shot and injured by Bangor police responding to a reported home intruder.

Feb. 25  Michael Buchanan, 61, of Somerville, who has bipolar disorder with psychosis, is shot and killed by Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies who are trying to take him into protective custody.
Dec. 25  Michael Montagna, 45, a mentally disturbed man who tells police he is being poisoned, is shot at by a Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy in Jefferson, flees and is later caught.

March 7  Dale Pelletier, 33, who has paranoid schizophrenia, is shot and killed in Acton by York County sheriff’s deputies after a chase in which gunfire is exchanged.
MAY 6  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. 17  Vincent Berube, 40, an emotionally disturbed man who has slashed his wrists and chest with a knife, is shot by Lewiston police in the department’s parking lot but survives.

Dec. 13  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 26  Jillian Daniels, 26, who is wanted in connection with armed robberies in New Hampshire and tells police she wants to kill herself or commit “suicide by cop,†is shot and wounded by Sanford police during a confrontation outside her grandmother’s 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. 26  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. 22  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. 23  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. 21  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. 16  Daniel McDowell, 21, who is drunk and has a history of suicide attempts, is fatally shot by state police and Somerset County sheriff’s deputies in a confrontation in Harmony.

Watch video of the Gainesville Police Department’s CIT training.

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