A 2007 police photo of the car that was stopped along Friendship Road in Waldoboro. Gregori Jackson, 18, was a passenger in the car. Jackson was shot and killed by reserve officer Zachary Curtis after a foot chase that ended in a densely wooded area. The Courier-Gazette

District Attorney Natasha Irving said Friday that she will prosecute a former Waldoboro reserve police officer involved in a fatal 2007 shooting if the Maine Attorney General’s Office does not file charges.

“This is an opportunity to right a wrong,” Irving said in a telephone interview Friday about the shooting death of 18-year-old Gregori Jackson by then-reserve officer Zachary Curtis in Waldoboro in September 2007.

Zachary Curtis when he was a reserve officer with the Waldoboro Police Department in 2007. The Courier-Gazette

The Maine Attorney General’s Office ruled the shooting justified. It has never found a police shooting unjustified in the more than four decades it has reviewed shootings by police officers in Maine.

Irving – chief prosecutor for Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Sagadahoc counties – said she has reviewed the evidence multiple times and says it warrants filing a murder charge. But Irving said she would seek a manslaughter charge because the Attorney General’s Office is the only agency in the state that can prosecute murder cases.

If a criminal charge is filed, it would be the first time in Maine a police officer has been charged for an on-duty shooting.

“There needs to be equal justice for all people. If you wear a uniform, it doesn’t give you a pass,” she said.

Irving’s push to prosecute Curtis comes amid renewed attention to the excessive use of force by police spurred by the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis officers last month.

Gregori Jackson of Whitefield is shown at Acadia National Park during a family outing just five days before he was fatally shot by a Waldoboro police officer in September 2007. Press Herald file photo

Irving said the physical evidence makes clear that the shooting of Jackson did not occur as Curtis described it.

The midcoast prosecutor said she would give Attorney General Aaron Frey a little more time to file a murder charge before she acts. Irving said she already has had her deputy district attorney research her office’s authority to file charges related to a homicide.

“The OAG (Office of the Attorney General) has no comment at this time,” spokesman Marc Malon said in an email Friday when asked about the status of the investigation.

Efforts to contact Curtis by telephone for an interview were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.

The shooting occurred after a traffic stop on Friendship Road on Sept. 23, 2007, according to then-Attorney General G. Steven Rowe’s report on the incident. Curtis, then 24, determined that Jackson, a passenger in the car, was on bail conditions that prohibited him from drinking, and smelled alcohol on his breath, the report says.

When Curtis tried to arrest Jackson, he ran down the road and into the woods, pursued by Curtis.

Curtis said Jackson charged at him and that Curtis landed on his back with the teenager lying facedown on top of him. Curtis said Jackson tried to get control of the officer’s gun and that Curtis feared he would lose consciousness from being choked by Jackson, who was pressing on Curtis’s throat with his forearm and striking him in the head.

When Curtis regained control of the .40-caliber Glock pistol, he shot Jackson once under the left armpit, three times in his lower back and once in the side of the head, the report said. Jackson died at the scene.

In his first interview with an investigator a few hours after the shooting, Curtis said Jackson struck him in the head with a “very tiny log.” Curtis said he then continued to pursue Jackson, but Jackson charged at him, knocking him to the ground and causing him to drop his radio and lose his glasses.

In a second interview, Curtis said the log was 8 inches round and 3 feet long, that the log struck him in the nose, and his glasses were knocked off by the impact before Jackson allegedly charged at him.

The AG’s Office’s statement on Nov. 30, 2007, saying its investigation found the shooting justified.

State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, has been one of the leading proponents for the AG to take action in Jackson’s killing. Evangelos also pushed for legislation to create a new panel to review police shootings.

Evangelos sent a letter to Frey on Monday about the lack of action.

“It has been almost a year since my team presented overwhelming evidence to you that Gregori Jackson’s homicide at the hands of Waldoboro Police was in no way justified,” Evangelos said in his letter to Frey. “An 18-year-old boy, unarmed, shot in the back four times, with the fifth shot an execution shot to the back of his head while he lay hopelessly paralyzed on the ground.

“We have provided you overwhelming evidence that Greg’s homicide was unjustified. While I am grateful for the work we did in the Judiciary Committee to start a reform process with the passage of L.D. 1219, the facts on the ground remain little changed.”

That legislation creates an independent panel to review the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. The bill was signed into law in June 2019.

In June 2019, a group met with Frey to ask that he reopen the 2007 case both to determine if the shooting was justified and to file a criminal charge. That group included Evangelos and Irving.

“Mr. Attorney General, you did the right thing when you heard our case for Gregori Jackson on June 14, 2019. Now I’m waiting for you to do the right thing, as was done recently in New Hampshire, and reverse this atrocity of a decision hastily issued in 2007, when the state spent a mere two months non-investigating Greg’s murder, an investigation beset by the lies of “Officer” Zachary Curtis and the inept performance of the Attorney General’s Office at that time, even refusing to pursue documented evidence that different types of shell casings were found at Greg’s body,” Evangelos said in his letter.

“We have the transcripts of this interview. And we now have transcripts of the June 9, 2019, interview of Curtis as well, where he now says there was no 8″ x 3 foot log that Greg allegedly attacked him with. Another lie exposed.”

“It took the Minneapolis authorities 4 days to charge the police officer for the murder of the unarmed George Floyd,” Evangelos said. “It has taken Maine 13 years and counting to adjudicate justice for the unarmed Gregori Jackson.”

After being told Friday that Irving planned to prosecute Curtis if the AG didn’t act, Evangelos quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Jackson’s parents, Natalie and Millard Jackson of Whitefield, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Curtis and Waldoboro, but a federal judge sided with the defendants in the civil case.

Curtis surrendered his law enforcement certificate in 2009 after being accused of theft.

Curtis was convicted in July 2013 of tampering with public records or information and fined $500. He was working as a dispatcher for Knox County at that time. Curtis entered into the Maine Public Safety computer system and tried to alter a record about a case in which police had gone to his home.

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