AUGUSTA — Dustin J. Paradis was a good and sweet man — still a boy, in some ways — who did not need to die and was not a threat to others, say his mother and some fellow residents of the Bread of Life Shelter, where he was shot and killed last week by police.

Dustin J. Paradis, shown in a photograph provided by his mother in Indiana, was shot and killed by police last Wednesday at an Augusta shelter. Courtesy Tammy Woodcock

Augusta police were called to the Hospital Street shelter at about 6 p.m. last Wednesday for a report of a man armed with a knife and threatening other residents. Officers found Paradis, who police say was brandishing a knife, and a man with injuries not considered life-threatening.

On Monday, a resident of the shelter who said he witnessed the police shooting said Paradis, 34, of Augusta, had a knife in his hand but backed up a step when confronted by police, and was not a threat to anybody but himself.

“I feel like they’re murderers. They killed that boy,” said Timothy Klepser of Augusta.

Klepser said he was between officers and Paradis when police shot Paradis three times, until he fell to the ground, and then shot him again.

“He stepped backward. He didn’t come toward them cops at all,” Klepser said. “He was not going after anybody with the knife. He only grabbed the knife because he was suicidal.”

Tammy Woodcock, Paradis’ mother, said Monday her son had Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

In an interview with the Kennebec Journal from her home in Terre Haute, Indiana, Woodcock said her son was caring and kind to others. But sometimes, especially when he was off his medications, he fell into a rage and would lash out by damaging objects, such as kitchen cabinets.

Sometimes, she said, he would even grab a knife. While that prompted numerous police responses, he never used the knives he grabbed on about a dozen other occasions, and he was not a threat to cut police or anyone else.

“My son has had 51 interactions with (police in Terre Haute), and not once was a weapon ever unsheathed (by police), because my son is not a threat,” Woodcock said. “There is no reason they had to shoot him. This is not a criminal. He has never been the first one to hit somebody, ever.

“He goes after inanimate objects, slamming kitchen drawers, or he’ll knock over chairs. He’ll be screaming at the top of his lungs. It’s really intimidating, I’m not going to lie. But if you leave him alone, he’ll stop. He won’t touch you.”

Woodcock said Paradis was a large man — 6 feet 10 inches tall and likely 340 pounds — who could be intimidating. She said he was brilliant but, due to his autism, was emotionally like a 10-year-old boy.

Woodcock said she has contacted a lawyer and wants answers to questions about the incident and her son’s death, including why his family was not contacted immediately when he was apparently in crisis, why no mental health worker was involved, why police did not de-escalate the situation before confronting her son, how many shots were fired, why police took a “kill shot” instead of wounding him and why police did not use Tasers instead of guns.

When a police-involved shooting occurs in the state, the Office of the Maine Attorney General investigates. Marc Malon, a spokesperson for the office, said officials there could not comment because the case involves an ongoing investigation.

At a news conference the day after the shooting, Chief Jared Mills of the Augusta Police Department said a mental health worker with the department was working that night, but the incident took place so quickly and the call of a report of a man with a knife threatening people at the shelter was so urgent the mental health worker did not have time to get there before the fatal confrontation.

Mills said Augusta police are trained to try to de-escalate a situation as soon as they get to a scene, but the armed confrontation with Paradis took place almost immediately after they arrived.

Not all Augusta officers always carry a Taser, Mills said, although most do. He  said he was not sure whether the two officers who acted with deadly force had tasers with them, noting in a “deadly force-type of situation, you’re not going to revert to a less than lethal tactic to meet that force.”

Augusta police say Sgt. Christopher Blodgett and Officer Sabastian Guptill used deadly force against Paradis, and neither officer was injured. Mills said they both officers fired their guns during the incident. When the Attorney General Office’s investigation is complete, more details, including which officer fired the fatal shot, would be part of the report.

The shelter where the shooting occurred is the Bread of Life Ministries’ emergency housing shelter for families and individuals.

Klepser, who is living at the shelter where he met Paradis, said when police arrived, he was in the office and Paradis was in the next room. Klepser said police pushed him aside and ordered Paradis to show his hands.

Klepser said Paradis raised his hands and was holding a knife. He said Paradis was screaming, telling police to kill him, and took one step back when police shot him. Klepser said one officer shot so many times he could hear the officer’s gun click after it was out of bullets.

Klepser estimated officers were in the doorway to the room where Paradis was, about 6 to 8 feet away from him. He said Paradis had used the knife to cut himself from wrist to palm.

The man whom Klepser said Paradis had struck in the head earlier with a bowl was lying on the floor in the office. The man had reportedly been antagonizing Paradis all day, calling him names, and Paradis had had enough and hit him in the head with a bowl of macaroni.

Another man, who said he was staying at the shelter but who declined to give his name other than “Thorn,” also said the injured man had been in a confrontation with Paradis

Other than lashing out at the man in that incident, Paradis was “a sweetheart” and not a mean guy at all, Klepser said. He said Paradis worked at Kohls.

A woman who said she was a resident at Bread of Life and witnessed some of the incident said shelter staff members had tried to help Paradis, whom she described as a kind, sweet and friendly man who was only hurting himself when police arrived. She said she could not see the police and Paradis interact, but she heard three to four gunshots, a pause, then more gunfire.

She said a good man was lost because police reacted too quickly.

Woodcock said her son lived with her in Indiana for most of his life but had moved to Maine, where his father and other family members live. She said she thought her son’s moving to Maine was his effort to show independence.

She said she did not hear from him for a while, but that had begun to change in recent months. In a series of conversations, Paradis revealed was having trouble with someone at the shelter who was picking on him. He was reportedly scared for his life.

Ten days before he was fatally shot, Paradis told his mother he was ready to come home. She told him they would get him back to Indiana, where she said she planned to take him to a mental health facility and make sure he got back onto his medications.

Three days before he was killed, Paradis called for the last time, asking to come home the next day. Woodcock said they planned to get him home, but had not been able to make arrangements that quickly.

Woodcock said the only times her son has been violent were when he punched another student in high school, knocking out a tooth. That student had picked on Paradis and made fun of his mother, according to Woodcock.

Woodcock also said when Paradis was in elementary school, he hit a student who was bullying a child in a wheelchair.

Since leaving school, Paradis had not hurt anyone, according to his mother, but he had damaged objects during moments of rage.

Woodcock said her son had gotten engaged in Maine, but moved into the shelter when the engagement ended.

She said he had a great sense of humor, loved to cook and loved animals.

“They killed an innocent man. They killed my child,” Woodcock said. “When he was in a good mood, he just lit up the room.”

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