WINDHAM – The attorney for Vicki McKenney, the wife of the Windham man who was shot and killed by a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy in April, has sent a notice of claim to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the Windham Police Department – the first step required in order to sue a state entity or employee.

On the morning of April 12, Cumberland County sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Mangino shot Stephen McKenney, 66, in his driveway, when he walked out of his 2 Searsport Way home holding a .357 Magnum revolver. In the notice of claim, Vicki McKenney’s Portland-based attorney, Daniel Lilley, estimates that she has suffered a minimum of $2 million in damages related to “severe psychological and financial injuries resulting from her husband’s death.” The notice charges the sheriff’s and police departments with “intentional wrongful acts, unconstitutional acts, neglect, negligence, and/or default” in relation to Stephen McKenney’s death.

In a report released Aug. 21, Attorney General Janet Mills concluded that Mangino “reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against him and other persons,” when he shot McKenney, a retired bus driver, in the head with a rifle. Vicki McKenney had called 911 prior to the shooting to report that her husband, who had been suffering from severe back pain for months, was suicidal. Mills’ conclusions were based on a scene investigation, numerous interviews, and a review of video recordings from two different Windham police cruisers and a recording of a 911 call, the report said.

Lilley said he is not persuaded by the attorney general’s conclusions, and has requested to interview Mangino and other law enforcement officials who were on the scene at the April 12 shooting. The requests have been denied, Lilley said.

Specifically, Lilley said, he wants to ask Mangino why he shot McKenney, instead of using non-lethal force to subdue the man.

“That would certainly be a question that would be relevant, and one that the attorney general’s office didn’t ask,” Lilley said. “I would say it’s a key question in the whole incident. Why did he shoot him? I would like to hear his answer.”

Peter Marchesi, the Waterville-based attorney representing the sheriff’s department, said he had ordered department officials not to grant Lilley access to the officers who were on the scene.

“If one really thought that Mr. Lilley was objectively evaluating the facts and would be dissuaded from filing a lawsuit if he had the opportunity to obtain additional information, then my position would be different,” Marchesi said. “Mr. Lilley has a history of being very flamboyant in his allegations and his matter of dealing with people, and I’m not going to give him an opportunity to obtain further information that he’s going to use and take out of context, and that’s exactly what he’s done in the notice of claim that he’s issued.”

Lilley said that if he were able to talk to Mangino and other officers, McKenney might drop the threat of a lawsuit.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions and the client’s not prepared, and we’re not prepared, to just let it go,” Lilley said. “We might if we got an opportunity to talk to the shooter, for instance.”

But Lilley said he did not expect to be granted access to Mangino and others.

“Unless there’s some change in response from the police and the law enforcement departments that they’re going to allow us to look into this further, we have no choice but to file the lawsuit,” he said.

Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Windham Police Chief Richard Lewsen declined to comment on the notice of claim. Edward Benjamin, a Portland-based lawyer representing Windham in the matter, said the Windham police department should not be included in any lawsuit relating to the incident.

“The shooter in the case was a deputy from the sheriff’s department,” Benjamin said. “The Windham police officers didn’t use deadly force.”

“There’s no basis for a suit against Windham, in my view,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin said there is no basis for a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department, either.

In anticipation of a forthcoming suit, Marchesi has hired an independent consultant to investigate the shooting. Marchesi, who would not name the consultant, said he was looking for a “completely transparent, unbiased, unvarnished, professional assessment of the case.”

Vicki McKenney, shown in the police video of the April 12 incident in which her husband Stephen McKenney was fatally shot by a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy, stands next to the garage at her home on Searsport Way in Windham just after police respond to her 911 call. 

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