After two days of unanswered questions, police said Monday that they did not actively chase a Plymouth man before his death Friday evening in a high-speed crash in Gray.

Oxford Police Chief Rickie Jack said that an officer from his department only chased Nicholas Leibowitz for 47 seconds before making the correct decision to turn off his siren when it was clear Leibowitz had no intention of pulling over.

Police say Leibowitz, 30, had been driving erratically for about two hours before his vehicle rammed into a telephone pole, went airborne and rolled over multiple times on Route 26 in Gray.

The officer “made the call on his own to terminate the attempt to stop because he felt it was way too dangerous for the amount of traffic that was on Route 26 that night,” Jack said. “I commend him for it.”

In the days since the crash, law enforcement has been slow to answer questions about whether police chased Leibowitz before the crash. In an email to the media on Saturday, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said the agency responded to calls from Oxford police and the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office “for a chase in-bound from Oxford. At times the chase was called off by these agencies.”

As of Monday, details about the exact role the Cumberland Sheriff’s Office had in the pursuit and the continuing investigation remained hazy. Chief Deputy Naldo Gagnon refused to answer questions Monday about whether police suspect the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and how Cumberland deputies had been involved in the effort to arrest Liebowitz, saying a detective was investigating the crash.



Androscoggin County dispatchers first received a call about an erratic driver in a 2023 Chevrolet Trailblazer at 6:39 p.m. in the town of Greene, Communications Director Martin Fournier said. When deputies arrived, they couldn’t find the car, which they later learned belonged to Leibowitz.

More than an hour and a half later, at 8:13 p.m. a second caller from the opposite side of Androscoggin County reported the same SUV swerving over the centerline as it headed north on Route 26 in Mechanic Falls. Leibowitz, apparently headed toward the Oxford Casino Hotel, alternated between driving slowly, pulling over to the side of the road to let cars pass and then speeding up to pass them back on the right side.

“About as erratic as it gets,” Fournier said.

Minutes after the Mechanic Falls tip, Leibowitz must have turned around and begun traveling south on Route 26, getting spotted by an Oxford police officer who happened to be in the area, Jack said.

Though Androscoggin County had warned local officers to be on the lookout for the vehicle, the Oxford officer hadn’t gotten the alert. And when Leibowitz attempted a high-speed U-turn and screeched to a halt in the middle of the road, the officer turned on his emergency lights and attempted to pull him over.


The chase lasted less than a minute before the officer decided to turn his lights off and follow from a distance, Jack said. He said the officer noticed that Leibowitz seemed to speed up at the start of the chase, and he feared this could endanger the many drivers on their way to or from a show at the nearby speedway that evening.

Under Oxford Police Department policy, officers must end pursuits when chasing a vehicle would create a danger that outweighs the need for immediate apprehension. After ending a chase, an officer may continue following a suspect at safe speeds.

“I would never justify chasing somebody to write somebody a speeding ticket,” Jack said. “For us to chase, it really needs to be for some sort of a felony or something that’s dangerous to human life.”

Cumberland County has refused to turn over its internal policy on police chases. And when a reporter asked the Maine State Police for a copy of its policy Monday, a spokesperson refused, citing state public records laws on disclosing investigative techniques or security plans and endangering law enforcement or others.

Under state law, every state, county and municipal law enforcement agency in Maine must adopt chase policies, but some departments have chosen not to be transparent about these practices in recent years.

Sigmund D. Schutz, an attorney who represents the Press Herald in First Amendment matters, said those were not valid justifications for not sharing at least part of the department’s policies.


“These policies appear to be made public fairly regularly in other states … and it doesn’t appear that is causing any harm,” he said. If you’re going to have fairly generic broad policies like this that are not tailored to any specific investigation (and) you’re going to have these things off limits, it creates a desert in terms of accountability.”


After the Oxford officer turned his siren off, Leibowitz appeared to calm down somewhat, but he continued to drive erratically, Jack said. He would sometimes slow down to 40 mph before speeding up to an estimated 90 mph.

By following Leibowitz, the officer hoped to minimize the risk of traffic accidents and to provide directions to Cumberland County deputies so they could deploy spike strips and force the driver to stop.

Neither goal was achieved. At some point in the 18-minute drive between when he was spotted in Oxford and crashed in Gray, Leibowitz hit a vehicle in Poland but continued driving, Gagnon, Cumberland’s chief deputy, said on Saturday.

In Gray, Cumberland deputies attempted to deploy a spike strip, but Lewibowtiz arrived moments too soon and escaped after nearly colliding with a deputy head-on. Jack said those crucial delays are often caused by the difficulty of coordinating between several different departments.  


Instead, Leibowitz continued south, where the highway becomes Shaker Road, and hit a second driver before crashing into a telephone pole at around 8:39 p.m., Fournier said.

Leibowitz died at the scene. The other drivers were not injured.


Two dogs in the SUV with Leibowitz survived, escaping the crash with only minor lacerations, according to animal control officer Jonathan Powers.

Powers said he didn’t know if the dogs got out of the vehicle after the crash or if they were ejected during the collision.

One of the animals was taken into animal control custody on the night of the accident. The second was picked up near the same location after it was captured by Maine Dog Recovery on Sunday.

Both animals have been returned to Leibowitz’s family.

“Both dogs are doing good,” Power said.

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