December 12, 2012

Psychotic break escalates to armed confrontation

A quiet young man’s loved ones agree that police were forced to shoot him, but they wonder if a lethal outcome could have been avoided by alternative tactics.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Andrew Landry hung posters of Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana on his bedroom walls, but when it came to playing the keyboard, he preferred the classical masters.

Andrew Landry, 22, was killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Lyman last year. The suddenness of his strange behavior perplexed loved ones, and an autopsy revealed neither the presence of drugs nor a brain tumor as a possible source. “We know how” he died, said his grandmother, Ruth St. Ours. “I wish we knew why.”

Courtesy photo

click image to enlarge

Sharon O’Brien holds a family photo of her nephew, Andrew Landry, at the family’s home in Sanford last week. O’Brien, who was with Landry the night he was shot and killed by police in Lyman in January 2011, says she believes her nephew reacted after being put on the defensive.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

"He went through the baggy pants falling off and shaved head" phases, said his maternal grandmother, Ruth St. Ours. "We went into a bookstore and he got music: Chopin and Bach. ... To look at him, you never would have thought."

She described Landry as a "very, very, very quiet" person who never gave anyone trouble. He lived upstairs in her house in Sanford, and "sometimes I saw him and talked to him once or twice a month," she said.

That isolation turned bizarre and then frightening on Jan. 15, 2011, when Landry started saying that bad things were coming through electrical appliances at his aunt's house in Lyman and claiming that if he stabbed his cousin she wouldn't bleed because she was a robot.

A York County sheriff's deputy went to the house and confronted Landry, who charged at him, a knife in each hand. The deputy fired four shots, killing the 22-year-old.

The Maine Attorney General's Office, in its required review of the shooting, said police were justified in shooting Landry, that he clearly posed a threat.

When Landry was growing up in Sanford alongside his two cousins, the kids enjoyed activities like playing paintball in the woods, said his aunt, Sharon O'Brien.

Landry dropped out of high school partway through the 10th grade, O'Brien said. He was bored and only had to brush up on two subjects when he went to get his GED, she said.

Landry had taken piano lessons when he was 13, impressing his teacher with his ability, his grandmother recalled. He later took up guitar and quickly became proficient.

He decided to go back to school and was taking classes at York County Community College. His aunt said he had been accepted into a music program through the University of Southern Maine.
Landry was closest to his cousins.

"He was my brother," said his cousin Travis Smalley. "It was like having that one person in your life you could always go to ... and then to have them taken away."

In the week before Landry died, his cousin Jennifer Smalley witnessed what appears now to be the onset of a psychotic episode. He had grown deeply philosophical, and began talking about Buddhism. He would curl up in a ball, but then come out of it a couple of hours later.

On Jan. 15, 2011, St. Ours and her husband found Landry wandering outside in Alfred. He was partially clothed, missing his shoes and shirt. His pants were soaked and icicles hung from his hair and eyebrows like he had fallen into water.

He was unable to explain what happened and at first didn't want to get in the car, St. Ours said.

That night, police received a call from St. Ours. Landry was at his aunt's house in Lyman with his aunt and his cousin Jennifer Smalley. He refused to go to the hospital and he had unplugged all the electronics. O'Brien said he seemed "amped up."

Landry said he did not think his cousin would bleed if he stabbed her because she was a robot. He unplugged the phone, and when St. Ours could not get a call through, she feared he had killed her daughter and granddaughter.

York County sheriff's deputies were briefed on Landry's bizarre behavior before they arrived. They were met at the door by O'Brien. When Landry saw them, he hid two knives on the couch.

When the deputies entered, Landry retreated to the kitchen. The officers followed, asking him to stop. Instead, he grabbed two other kitchen knives with 8-inch blades and turned on the officers.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Andrew Landry was close to his cousins, Jennifer Smalley, 26, left, and her brother Travis Smalley, 21, of Sanford. Travis holds a portrait of the three of them when they were children. Jennifer says in the week preceding her cousin’s death in a confrontation with police, she witnessed what appears to have been the onset of a psychotic episode in him.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

  


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