The Maine Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday that a Rumford police officer was justified in shooting and wounding a suicidal woman who threatened him with a knife in March.

According to an Attorney General’s Office report, police were sent to the residence of Jessica Bryn-Francisco, 25, on March 18 after the woman told her counselor that she had taken a large dose of anti-anxiety and sleep medications in an attempt to kill herself.

The report said the counselor called police, and Rumford Officer Brad Gallant went to Bryn-Francisco’s apartment on Maine Avenue. He knocked on the door, but no one answered.

Gallant could hear a woman inside, but the door was locked. By that time, Sgt. Tracey Higley had joined Gallant.

Rumford police had responded to Bryn-Francisco’s residence 30 previous times dating to 2007, including 13 calls related to suicide attempts, according to the report.

Both officers had responded to Bryn-Francisco’s prior suicide attempts and were concerned that she might be unconscious inside, so Higley forced the door open.

Once inside, Higley found about 30 empty prescription medication capsules that appeared to have been emptied into a glass of water. The glass was nearly empty.

Bryn-Francisco was not inside, but she was still talking on the phone to her counselor, who relayed to police that she had left the apartment through an open window. The officers searched for Bryn-Francisco and found her sitting on the ground underneath a deck attached to the apartment building.

Gallant tried talking to her, but she told him to leave her alone. As the officer tried to help her onto her feet, he noticed she was holding a folding knife.

Gallant stepped back and, in doing so, dropped his handcuffs in the snow. He ordered Bryn-Francisco to drop the knife, but she refused.

The officer then tried to use his Taser but was unsuccessful.

Higley, who had been looking for Bryn-Francisco in another area, joined Gallant after his attempt to subdue her with the Taser failed. He also shouted to her to drop the knife, and attempted to use his own Taser, which was also unsuccessful.

At that point, Bryn-Francisco began walking toward Higley with the knife drawn. Higley had his gun out and was walking backward in the snow as Bryn-Francisco advanced, the report said.

Higley continued to ask her to drop the knife, prompting her to respond by saying, “Go ahead and shoot me,” according to the Attorney General’s Office report.

Higley said he didn’t want to shoot her but the woman kept approaching him with the knife still in her hand. The officer fired two shots from his .40-caliber handgun, both of which struck Bryn-Francisco. She fell to the ground and the officer took her knife.

An investigation found that Bryn-Francisco was about 15 feet from Higley when the shots were fired.

She was treated for gunshot wounds, first at Rumford Medical Center and then at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Eight days after she was admitted, she checked herself out of the hospital.

Bryn-Francisco has been charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, a Class C felony. The case is still pending in Oxford County Superior Court.

As is the case with all uses of deadly force by police officers in Maine, the Attorney General’s Office investigated Higley’s conduct.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Janet Mills concluded that Higley “reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against him.”

From 2000 to December 2012, police in Maine fired their guns at 71 people, striking 57 of them. Thirty-three of those people died. A review of the 57 shootings by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in 2012 found that at least 24, or 42 percent, involved people with mental health problems. Seven of the shootings were alcohol-related. Two involved drugs.

Of the 33 people killed, at least 19, or 58 percent, had mental health problems.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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