A wrongful-death lawsuit alleging excessive force by Farmington Police Officer Ryan Rosie will proceed to trial, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled. Justin Crowley-Smilek was shot and killed by Rosie in 2011 outside the town police station.

The court decision on requests for summary judgment was handed down Sept. 30 by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rich on lawsuits filed a year and a half ago.

In May 2012, then-state Attorney General William J. Schneider concluded the shooting was justified and no criminal charges were filed.

Rich’s ruling clears the town of Farmington and Police Chief Jack Peck in the lawsuit, while also rejecting a request by Crowley-Smilek’s family for early rulings against the defendants, including Rosie.

The civil case alleges use of excessive force and violation of Maine civil rights and wrongful death statutes. The lawsuit was filed by Michael W. Smilek and Ruth Crowley, Crowley-Smilek’s parents.

Crowley-Smilek, 28, a U.S. Army veteran who suffered from combat stress and physical injuries from service, was shot several times by Rosie outside the Farmington municipal offices in November 2011.


Police, in justifying the use of deadly force, have said Crowley-Smilek had a knife and acted in a threatening way toward Rosie, by chasing the officer and ignoring his commands.

Because facts are in dispute about what happened during the shooting, Rich did not rule on the counts against Rosie and instead left those to be settled at trial.

The defendants argued that Rosie should be protected by the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from lawsuits if an officer “reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back … the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed.”

Crowley-Smilek took out a 13-inch-long knife from his jacket pocket and chased Rosie around a police cruiser before the officer stepped aside and shot the man. Rosie had radioed for backup when Crowley-Smliek started chasing him.

Rich’s decision notes that as long as the police cruiser was between Rosie and Crowley-Smilek, then the officer probably could not invoke the qualified immunity standard.

“However, the undisputed fact in this case is that, after Rosie stepped away from the protection of the cruiser, Crowley-Smilek began sprinting toward him,” Rich wrote. “… At that point, a reasonable officer in Rosie’s position would have believed that Crowley-Smilek was armed with a knife and that he intended to cause serious physical harm to Rosie.”

Rich notes that Rosie’s reasons for stepping away from the cruiser and taking up a firing position “are not recounted in the record and appear to me to be significant” when considering qualified immunity. Rich said relevant details are not part of the record, including: how long the chase lasted around the cruiser, when the call for backup came and when Rosie stepped away to fire. Therefore, the judge wrote, he couldn’t determine whether Rosie’s action “contributed to the danger he faced that qualified immunity is unavailable.”

The issue would be revisited at trial, Rich wrote.

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