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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“I transitioned from my rifle to the Taser as all units were armed and two were armed with long rifles,” King wrote in his report. “I saw that in his right pants pocket he was holding a gun. I notified everyone present there.”

Police did nothing to confront or challenge Emery and officers did not turn on the blue lights of their cruisers, according to Gottardi.

“We held our position so as to contain Emery in this rural location so if something involving deadly force was necessary the threat to us and the public would be minimized,” Gottardi wrote. “Further, if we had to encounter Emery, said encounter would be due to his direct actions to provoke the situation, not ours.”

Gottardi said he grabbed Emery’s right pocket and held onto the pistol, while deputies and police officers tried to pry Emery’s hand out of his pocket.

“I then gave the order for Emery to be Tazed so we could get quicker control of the pistol and him,” Gottardi wrote.

They stunned Emery, then took him to the ground and handcuffed him. Michael Emmons, Skowhegan’s police chief at the time, arrived on the scene around that time.

Emery was taken by police cruiser to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan to be evaluated.

Hospital staff conducted a blood test, the results of which showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.272 – more than three times the legal limit for intoxication – according to the hospital reports obtained by the Morning Sentinel.

The blood test was administered at 8:06 p.m., about two and a half hours after Gottardi first found Emery’s truck in the ditch.

Attorney Walter McKee of Augusta, who represented Emery on the drunken driving charge, said a hospital blood test is done differently than one that would be done for law enforcement at the Department of Health and Human Services laboratory.

McKee said a hospital blood test is a basic screening test and nothing more. Maine law and the state Department of Health and Human Services require a more precise test to bring to court in a criminal trial.

“A hospital blood test is simply not accurate enough to meet criminal case standards,” Mc- Kee said. “It gives a general idea only. It would be like using the thermometer outside the bank to prove the precise temperature on a given day at a given hour. It just doesn’t cut it.”

McKee said police could not perform a test because Emery had refused it and later was unconscious because of the medication.

The blood samples taken at the hospital were destroyed because at the time there had been no request to save them, Daniel Summers, deputy police chief at the time, said in his report.

McKee said the hospital blood test might not have stood up in court, but that Emery agreed to plead guilty to drunken driving to put the incident behind him.

Last month, Emery was ordered to pay a $500 fine, and $140 in court costs and surrender his driver’s license for 90 days. It was his first drunken-driving conviction.

CONSULTANT BACKS POLICE ACTIONS

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she turned the case over to the Office of Attorney General at the beginning, because of Emery’s role as a police chief in her jurisdiction.

“I’m conflicted out of this case, that means I’m not allowed to look at the file,” Maloney said. “It had to be the AG’s office to supervise it because it would not be fair for me to be involved if I know the defendant or if I know the victim.”

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