October 9, 2013

Maine AG: Trooper justified in shooting of Maine teen

James Reynolds, 18, of West Paris, who reportedly is mentally ill, made a threat with a rifle, the attorney general says.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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This 2009 Oxford Hills Middle School yearbook shows James Reynolds

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A frame grab from a video of the Maine State Police S58th Recruit Training Troop (RTT) posted on YouTube shows then-recruit Jason Wing during an exercise. The state attorney general's office has found Trooper Wing legally justified in shooting James Reynolds, 18, along a West Paris road in June.

Photo: Maine State Police 2008

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“It is beyond the scope of this report and beyond the authority and expertise of the Attorney General’s Office to speculate on Mr. Reynolds’ motivations, his state of mind, or the medical or psychological underpinnings of his actions at the time he confronted Trooper Wing,” the report says.

Wing, who initially was put on administrative leave pending the investigation, returned to patrol in July. It was the second time he had used deadly force in the course of duty.

In June 2008, Wing fired three rifle shots into the windshield of an oncoming pickup truck driven by a fleeing suspect. No one was injured, the suspect was apprehended and Wing was later found justified in his use of deadly force.

As a matter of procedure in Maine, every use of deadly force by law enforcement is investigated by the Attorney General’s Office, which determines whether it is legally justifiable. Police officers may use deadly force only in situations in which they perceive an imminent threat against themselves or someone else, and actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that threat.

The reviews do not ask whether violence could have been avoided, and every shooting by an officer since 2000 has been found to be justified.

Mental illness is a common factor in many police shootings, according to an analysis published in December by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

From 2000 to the end of 2012, police in Maine fired their guns at 71 people, hitting 57 of them. Thirty-three of those people died.

The newspaper’s review of the 57 shootings showed that at least 24 of them, 42 percent, involved people with mental health problems. Of the 33 people who were killed, at least 19 of them, 58 percent, had mental health problems.

The newspaper also found that relatively few Maine police officers have advanced training to prevent or defuse the use of deadly force. It was unclear whether Wing was among those who had the training.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at: mbyrne@pressherald.com

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