December 14, 2013

Police shooting brings tragic end to a troubled life

Relatives suspect that John Knudsen of Hollis intentionally provoked police into killing him.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

John Knudsen, who was shot and killed by police in Hollis on Thursday, is seen in a family photograph.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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That’s why family members were pleased to see him settle down with Linda Knudsen. They got married on Islesboro in August.

“Their wedding day, they just had eyes for each other,” Kimmey said. “They were thrilled to pieces.”

They met about a year ago in front of Cabela’s in Scarborough and he fell in love with her, Knudsen told his family.

“He saw that head of hair and said, ‘I just had to meet her,’ ” Bruni said.

They appeared happy, posting notes of affection on Facebook.

On Friday night, Linda Knudsen sent a Facebook message to the Portland Press Herald, saying, “Anyone that John came across in his life will tell you the same thing over and over again. He loved people and they loved him. He was a very intelligent man and proved to all his friends that he could fix it. Mechanical, constructional, electronically he could fix anything and make it better. He had the biggest heart and loving soul that I had ever met in my lifetime.”

DEMONS FOLLOWED HIM

But Knudsen’s demons were never far away.

He tried to quit drinking after his first wife died. His family did an intervention last summer, and he agreed to enter a rehabilitation program, said Knudsen-Kneeland. As much as he wanted to quit drinking, he left the program.

And his drinking was painful for those who loved him.

“He was a terrible, mean drunk,” Knudsen-Kneeland said. “He would get up in the morning and start drinking. That wasn’t unusual for him.” He would drink Black Velvet Canadian whiskey by the half-gallon, she said.

“I’m sure he drank to erase the memories,” Bruni said. “They always come back. It’s only temporary.”

Two weeks before his wedding, Knudsen was helping a relative clear trees from a lot when a log fell on his leg, breaking it. His healing was slow, and he was confined to a wheelchair.

Amanda Hitchcock, Knudsen’s niece, said “He said he was sick of watching (Linda) do everything. He said, ‘I can’t even get in the car and buy you flowers.’ ”

It was especially hard for someone who had always been so capable, able to do anything he set his mind to. His wife had to bathe him and help him go to the bathroom.

“He was very depressed over his situation,” Hitchcock said. “He felt like ‘I can’t be a man. I lost my pride.’ ”

FATAL EXCHANGE

Police were called to 33 Little Falls Road, a manufactured home set back from the road, about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. “He had been up drinking the night before,” Hitchcock said.

Members of the Maine State Police tactical team surrounded his house as negotiators tried to get him to give himself up.

After extended negotiations, Knudsen went to his front door, said something to police, then fired a handgun at state troopers, police said.

Hitchcock, like others, thinks he was trying to provoke police.

Trooper Tyler Stevenson, a nine-year veteran of the department, returned fire and fatally shot Knudsen around 2:15 p.m.

Stevenson has been put on administrative leave with pay – a standard procedure – while the shooting is investigated by the Attorney General’s Office.

Knudsen-Kneeland questioned why police couldn’t have shot him in an arm or a leg.

But police, who are deemed justified in shooting someone only if that person is threatening others with deadly force, are trained to eliminate the threat by shooting at the center of a person’s torso. A shot at an extremity could easily miss, costing someone else their life, police say.

Knudsen-Kneeland also believes that she and her sisters may have been able to get through to him as police surrounded the house.

“We don’t understand why they did not try to contact his sisters. He was our brother. We could have talked to him,” she said. “ I believe we could have got through to him. ... He loved us dearly and we loved him. Even with all the problems, we still loved him.”

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com

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