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
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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

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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

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One, Sgt. David Chauvette, fired his Taser. Landry stiffened momentarily, then charged forward, swinging his knives like the blades of a windmill. Sgt. Kyle Kassa backed up as far as he could, according to the attorney general's investigation into the episode. Landry had actually made contact with Kassa when the officer fired four shots at point-blank range, three of them hitting Landry, who was pronounced dead later at the hospital.

The Attorney General's Office said Kassa was justified in shooting Landry, that he clearly posed an imminent threat to the deputy.

At the time, O'Brien said police had no choice. Now, however, she feels that police forced the confrontation by charging into the house, putting her nephew on the defensive.

"His concern was he was going to protect me and Jen. ... Nobody was coming in the house," O'Brien said. She said the officers had their guns drawn before Landry grabbed the knives.

The suddenness of Landry's psychosis was inexplicable, family members said, leading some to wonder whether he might have taken drugs or had a brain tumor. But tests performed for the state Medical Examiner's Office showed neither, they said.

He was never on medication, and relatives were not aware of any mental health problems.

"We know how he passed away," St. Ours said. "I wish we knew why."


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Additional Photos

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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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