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

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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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Gottardi wrote in his report that police took cover and had their guns trained on Emery in case he reached for his weapon.

“There was some risk involved, of course, but when one considers the totality of circumstances, the police made the right decision,” Drago said after reviewing portions of the police reports at the request of the Morning Sentinel. “The operation was not reckless, they took all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of all involved.”

Emery said if police had done follow-up interviews with him and his family, and agreed to release details, he could have been spared the speculation that surrounded what happened that night.

“There could have been more information released earlier,” he said. “The police, as far as I’m concerned, didn’t do their job. It makes it sound like I’m some mental psycho case and that’s not the case at all. Is that what they think was normal behavior for me? No one took the time to say, ‘What the hell? That is not John. What is this?’ No one took the time.

“It looks like there was something hidden and unfortunately that was out of my control.”

‘VERY CONFUSED AND ANGRY’

On Dec. 24 more than a dozen police officers responded to the report that Emery was missing, armed and suicidal. Hooper, who worked with Emery in Fairfield for 12 years before she joined the Skowhegan department, said in her report that she called Emery on his cellphone that night and he did not know who she was.

“John told me he was stuck and started laughing, asking me who I was and why I was calling him,” Hooper wrote. “John was very confused and angry at the time of this call. I could not reason with him and he told me that I had no idea what was wrong with him.”

Hooper wrote that she could not reason with the chief.

“John said, ‘When I see blue lights, I have 15 rounds and it will be all over, you can read about it in the paper tomorrow,’ ” she wrote.

By 5:30 p.m., Gottardi had found Emery’s truck stuck in a snowy ditch off Notch Road. Police set up a perimeter and closed the road.

Gottardi, with Paul, tried to talk to Emery by cellphone and by shouting.

“Emery appeared to be under the influence, as he slurred his words and was not talking normally,” Gottardi wrote. “Emery challenged the fact that I was Carl Gottardi, as he stated that I did not sound like Carl Gottardi.”

Gottardi said Emery appeared to have a bottle of beer in his hand.

At 6:03 p.m., police heard a single gun shot from the area of the truck.

Police later couldn’t find the shell casing and found no bullet marks in the truck, so it wasn’t clear where Emery was when he pulled the trigger, but the shot appeared to not have been directed at anything in particular.

“At this time, however, we now knew that Emery was armed and that it appeared that he may make good on his reported threats to use a firearm and bring this situation to the ‘next level,’ which now put our lives and the public’s in danger,” Gottardi wrote.

At about 6:40 p.m., Paul told Gottardi he’d just learned that Emery had called his wife and parents to say goodbye.

According to police accounts, Emery got out of the truck and began walking – one account said he was running – toward the police roadblock, slipping and falling down the icy road as he went.

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