October 13, 2013

Reports show Fairfield police chief as man in crisis

John Emery blames stress, alcohol and medication for his actions that shocked those who knew him.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Fairfield Police Chief John Emery left his home on Christmas Eve armed with his service-issued .357 Glock, semi-automatic pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition.

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John Emery, a former Fairfield police chief who pleaded guilty to operating under the influence, says that his erratic behavior happened “right out of the blue.”

David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

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Family members told authorities he planned to kill himself – or die in a shootout with police.

Hours later, a dozen police officers and deputies were involved in a tense standoff with the agitated Fairfield chief, who was found in his pickup truck, stuck in a ditch on a dirt road.

It ended with Emery – who had 27 years on the police force, 12 of them as chief – struggling with police officers who shocked him with a stun gun, tackled him and wrestled a loaded gun from his pocket.

Those are a few of the details contained in police reports that have been released nine months after the incident in response to Freedom of Access Act requests by the Morning Sentinel. Police previously refused to disclose what happened and have denied prior public records requests by the newspaper.

The police reports, which were not filed in court in connection with the criminal case against Emery, describe the frantic events of Dec. 24. Statements by Skowhegan officers Ryan Dinsmore and Joshua King, Sgt. Keith Bigger and Detective Kelly Hooper, as well as Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department portray Emery as a man in crisis, his behavior shocking officers who knew him personally.

Two days after the standoff, he requested and was granted administrative leave from the police department. He resigned March 1. Emery pleaded guilty last month to a charge of operating under the influence stemming from the incident.

“I read the police reports and cried,” Emery said during a recent interview.

In a telephone interview, Emery, 48, who voluntarily surrendered his law enforcement certificate in May, said he has no memory of anything from the days leading up to Christmas Eve and no memory of the incident itself.

“I can’t tell you what I did for two and a half days, don’t know who I talked to, don’t know what I did – I don’t remember any of it,” Emery said. “I don’t know what happened that night. I only know that now because I read the police reports.”

Emery said a combination of medication, stress and alcohol were to blame for his behavior. It happened “right out of the blue,” he said. Emery would not discuss what medication he was taking.

“It just kills me – 27 years of my life in public service – it hurts, but it is what it is,” he said. “In a way I’m a little bit bitter because I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me.”

CALLS TO CRISIS & COUNSELING

Emery had argued with family members a few days before, on Dec. 21, which appears to have upset him, and he had seemed to withdraw from friends in the months prior to the incident, family members told police. He was prescribed medication for pain from back surgery, possibly suffered from depression and had been drinking that day, police reports said.

On Dec. 24, there were calls to Crisis & Counseling and finally to police, who found Emery, apparently intoxicated, 21/2 hours after the first call. The police chief’s truck was stuck in a ditch off Notch Road in Skowhegan, miles from his home.

In a situation like that, good cover on the road for police can be the difference between someone getting shot, said Chuck Drago, a former police chief and retired senior law enforcement adviser for the governor of Florida, now a professional consultant and expert witness in police cases.

(Continued on page 2)

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