Mark and Laurie McKenna in their Rumford home on Oct. 2. They lost their son Drew in what they say was an accidental shooting just before Christmas and their son Shay in a police shooting on Sept. 13. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The dirt roads grew more and more precarious as Laurie McKenna ticked her way down a list of makeshift directions.

“Look for a broken tree.”

“Turn when you come to a clearing at the bottom of a hill.”

It’s only a 35-mile drive to the campsite, but the trip takes an hour and a half – too many rocks and potholes and logging trucks tearing around corners to safely get there any quicker. And it’s easy to get lost.

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, McKenna managed to navigate the unmarked Rangeley Plantation roads to the clearing where her exiled son was living. Their visit was short – McKenna didn’t want to get caught out there after dark, and technically she wasn’t supposed to have any contact with Shay, who was facing manslaughter charges after shooting his brother Drew last December.

She urged him to come home to his lawyer and turn himself in. The judge would understand it wasn’t his fault he had missed his recent court date, she told him. Things would be OK.


Shay McKenna, 28, promised he’d think about it. He seemed calm, his mother remembers. Calm, even though he was wearing a bulletproof vest. Calm, even as he told her that the police were going to kill him.

Shay McKenna Photo courtesy of Laurie McKenna

The next day, he was proven right.

On Sept. 13, a tactical team and crisis negotiators surrounded McKenna’s van and informed him he was under arrest for possessing a gun – a violation of his bail terms, according to police. When he came out wearing a bulletproof vest and holding a rifle, Maine State Police Trooper Jeffrey Parks shot and killed him. Police say McKenna had another gun on him, along with several magazines of ammunition.

State police spokeswoman Shannon Moss said officers had plenty of reason to believe McKenna was dangerous. He had already been charged with manslaughter. He had violated his release conditions by possessing a gun and by illegally setting up camp on private property. And when officers arrived, he greeted them dressed for combat.

McKenna’s family tells a different story. They describe a gentle soul – a man who was haunted by the death of his brother and who would never intentionally hurt anyone. They’re sure that he would still be alive if police had just asked them for help to bring him in instead of cornering him in the woods.

The shooting was not recorded on any body or dash cameras, so the only people who know whether McKenna threatened police are Parks – who had killed an 18-year-old woman in the line of duty in 2017 – and his fellow officers. But according to court records, the series of events that culminated in McKenna’s death began with a seemingly innocuous mistake by his lawyer days before police reached the campsite.



Before Shay McKenna was accused of killing his brother, he lived a quiet life in his parents’ Rumford home. He’d been a strong student at Mountain Valley High School and showed a particular knack for technology, his relatives say. He didn’t have an easy a time with people and was sometimes the target of bullies.

But mental health was his biggest challenge – for most of his life, he struggled with bouts of depression that sometimes left him unable to sleep through the night or get out of bed during the day. While his high school classmates moved away to go to college or launch careers, he stayed home, sometimes using his computer skills to help keep the books for his father’s fence-building business.

His parents were happy to have him for as long as it took him to make his own way. They say he was often quiet but otherwise polite and rarely displayed any type of temper. Sometimes he’d take his mother on rides to the beautiful places where he preferred to spend his time – mountains and waterfalls and riverbanks, anywhere he could see the night sky and feel the presence of animals around him.

His father, Mark, says he used to go on moonlit walks with coyotes behind the family home. His mother remembers him bringing home a stray cat, which he named Jax but referred to mostly as “baby boy.”

On the surface, McKenna had little in common with his younger brother, who was also living at home. Drew, 23, had friends everywhere he went. An athlete, he had traded football for weightlifting as an adult and spent his days doing physical labor for the family business while Shay stayed home on his computer.


But despite their differences, the pair had always gotten along well. As a small child, Shay was constantly by his baby brother’s side, even when Laurie was changing his diaper.

“The second that Drew was born, Shay was an amazing older brother,” she said. “That was Shay’s best friend.”

In the evenings, after Drew got home from work and Shay finally got out of bed – his schedule was often nocturnal – they would sit together and play video games.

Their other shared passion was guns.

Mark and Laurie McKenna near a small chapel they created in their backyard after their son Drew died. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


The McKennas say they don’t like to talk about what happened last December. They’ve already been forced to relive it enough, first by police, then again by prosecutors. What matters, they say, is that it was an accident. They’re sure if authorities had only understood that, Shay McKenna would still be alive.


Transcripts of their testimony to a grand jury detail their memories of what happened.

Christmas decorations packed the home’s living room and connecting hallway on Dec. 19, exacerbating the usual cozy chaos of squawking birds in cages and knickknacks and family photos. It was after 6 p.m., the sun already long gone, but Shay McKenna had only recently gotten up, according to his mother’s account.

He was in the kitchen sipping a cup of coffee when they got into an argument. It was just stupid, harmless bickering over chores and groceries, she told the grand jury in April. She said she couldn’t remember whether she poked a finger in her son’s chest as the two moved from the living area into the hallway toward the bedrooms. She only knows that he gave her a small push – just enough to knock her off balance. She said that caused her to trip over a piece of furniture behind her and fall to the ground.

Mark and Drew McKenna were only feet away in the living room. When they saw Laurie fall, they leaped over to Shay, Mark McKenna told the grand jury. He said he grabbed Shay’s arms for a moment, then let go of him when it looked like he was under control. Then he noticed his son’s hand straight up in the air holding something black: a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol that Shay had apparently been keeping in a waistband holster.

Shay McKenna lowered his arm to almost 90 degrees. A shot rang out, and Drew hit the floor beneath the Christmas tree. Shay began saying, “No, no, no, no,” Laurie McKenna told the grand jury. She was just waiting for Drew to get up.

“I thought he was fooling around at first, because he was such a jokester,” she said. “And then from there it has just been a nightmare.”


It’s unclear how the gun went off. Shay told police that he was trying to put the gun away out of fear that it could be dangerous to have in the middle of an argument, according to a police affidavit. He said he did not have his finger on the gun’s trigger and that it went off when someone bumped him.

His father told police that night that no one had their hands on Shay McKenna at the moment the weapon fired, but he later told the grand jury that it went off when he reflexively swiped at it. He said he misremembered what happened when he gave his first account because of the stress of the moment – he had spoken to police in the hospital where his youngest son lay dying.

Mark and Laurie McKenna’s home in Rumford. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The mechanics of the shooting were almost beside the point to the McKennas, who just wanted to be with Drew in his last moments. Whether or not Shay had been bumped, they were sure he hadn’t meant to shoot anyone, let alone his best friend.

They were frustrated that officers bothered them for statements in the hospital and angry that they couldn’t hold Drew’s hands because police had put evidence bags over them.

“It really was treating him like he was evidence and not taking into consideration that this is a family going through a horrific ordeal,” Shay’s sister Deanna McKenna said.

They had lost a loved one, and they were soon to lose another. By morning, Drew was dead and Shay was in jail.



Prosecutors didn’t dispute that the shooting was an accident, according to a spokesperson for the Maine Office of the Attorney General. But they believed Drew’s death was the result of Shay acting recklessly or negligently. Despite objections from Mark and Laurie, a grand jury agreed that there was cause to indict.

As Drew McKenna took his final breaths in the early hours of Dec. 20, 2022, police searched the family home. According to court records, they found six guns in Shay’s room, not including the pistol they had already confiscated from him: four loaded AR-15-style rifles, a .22-caliber rifle and a Titanic .32-caliber revolver.

His parents say they didn’t know about some of these guns, just as they didn’t know about the pistol that killed their son. Some had been inherited from Laurie McKenna’s father. Others belonged to Drew, who had occasionally practiced target shooting with Shay outside the house.

But even though they didn’t like guns themselves, they say they weren’t surprised or suspicious of their son when they learned of all the weapons in his room. After all, Shay and Drew were hardly the only young men in Maine fascinated by guns.

“I see people in Walmart with guns on them,” McKenna’s sister Deanna said. “The narrative of him having an arsenal – it’s not true.”


Mark and Laurie wanted their son to come home. But that wasn’t an option. Because McKenna was facing a manslaughter charge, the court barred him from having any contact with the only other witnesses to the shooting: his parents.

Two days after Christmas, the couple put a lien on their home to cover McKenna’s $200,000 bond. He had a bed at his sister’s house. But while he coped with the horror of what he had done, McKenna was cut off from his parents and the home he’d always known.


Eight months later, George Hess stood in a South Paris courthouse frantically trying to reach his client.

Laurie and Mark McKenna pause while talking about their sons Drew and Shay. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

McKenna was supposed to be at Oxford County Superior Court for a status conference at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, but he hadn’t come in and wasn’t picking up his phone, according to a motion Hess later filed. This was unusual for McKenna. Though his family said he didn’t seem to fully grasp the legal process – he’d never been in any kind of trouble before – he’d always made his court dates until now.

Finally, Hess got through to McKenna’s sister, but she didn’t know where he was either. He had moved out when she sold her place in August, she told him, and he was living by himself in the woods somewhere.


Hess asked the court for more time.

But Judge Jennifer Archer, who had only recently taken over the case, wasn’t swayed. She issued the arrest warrant that prosecutors were seeking. McKenna was now wanted.

McKenna called Hess back a few hours later. He said he hadn’t known about the status conference because Hess had sent the notice to his sister’s old home. A text message from July confirmed McKenna had warned his lawyer of the address change; Hess, not his client, had made the mistake that led to the missed court date.

The lawyer got to work on a motion to withdraw the arrest warrant, which included details explaining the mistake. But by the time it was filed in court on Sept. 13, state police were already preparing to confront McKenna at his campsite.

They had started their search the day before, according to a police affidavit. Maine State Police Detective Blake Conrad learned from Rumford police that McKenna had been spotted filling up gas cans at a Circle K in Mexico just after midnight on Sept. 11, about 13 hours before his missed court date. Tips led the department to the clearing where McKenna had parked his van and two other cars. They found what appeared to be a makeshift gun range – a paper target and soda bottles riddled with what looked like bullet holes sat about 50 yards from the van.

Rumford officers were on site and ready to make the arrest on Sept. 12 if they got the word from state police. Instead, they stood down and went home after Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea reported that Hess had taken responsibility for the missed court date and was working on a motion to get the arrest warrant withdrawn. Police decided “to allow the court issue to resolve itself,” the affidavit states.


But that same day, the Maine Warden Service placed a game camera at the campsite entrance to monitor McKenna. The device, which was programmed to automatically take photos when it sensed movement, soon captured a grainy image of him standing in a clearing wearing sunglasses, a backward baseball cap and what appeared to be a rifle slung across this chest.

The missed court date was no longer relevant; state police now had evidence that McKenna was in violation of his release conditions, which expressly forbade him from possessing firearms. Detectives requested a tactical team. According to Moss, the department’s spokesperson, the team performed a risk assessment – given his suspected possession of firearms, violation of bail conditions and the fact that he had killed his brother, the team determined McKenna “created a significant safety risk to himself, the general public and law enforcement officers.”

The next afternoon, several people in Andover noticed a large gathering of 10 or more armored police officers in the parking lot of the town’s fire station. An armored tactical vehicle soon journeyed up the rocky passes and came to a stop a few feet behind McKenna’s van.


At 4:23 p.m. on Sept. 13, McKenna attempted to text his sister a photo of the police vehicle that had just arrived.

“They’re here. Goodbye.”


Laurie McKenna pauses while talking about her sons. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

According to Moss, crisis negotiation team members sounded a siren and used a PA system to inform McKenna he was under arrest. They asked him to get out of the van unarmed.

Instead, she said, he got out wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying two guns. Parks, the state trooper, fired. According to McKenna’s family, two bullets hit and killed him. They later found blotches of what appears to be his blood on the inside of the passenger side of the van.

No one knows for sure if McKenna was hoping to shoot his way out.

Moss refused to answer questions about how Parks “confronted” McKenna, as police said at the time, or whether McKenna attempted to raise his gun at officers. She cited an ongoing use-of-force investigation by the attorney general’s office, which reviews all fatal shootings by officers in Maine.

This is the second time the AG’s office has investigated Parks, who on Feb. 10, 2017, killed 18-year-old Ambroshia Fagre while responding to a Vassalboro robbery involving her boyfriend.

In that case, Kadhar Bailey, 25, allegedly had held a homeowner at gunpoint, tied him up and ransacked his house while Fagre, who appeared disoriented, waited in a truck nearby, according to the attorney general’s findings.


Parks was down the road in his cruiser when he heard gunshots and got out of the car – later, he learned that Vassalboro police Chief Mark Brown had fired at Bailey as he approached the truck with what appeared to be a handgun. Bailey got in the vehicle, turned on the engine and sped directly toward Parks’ cruiser, which was blocking the only way out. (High snowbanks on either side of the narrow road left room for only one lane of travel, according to investigation materials.)

Parks moved away from his car, stood on a snowbank, and fired six or seven shots intended for the driver, he later said at a deposition. The truck crashed into the cruiser at high speed before coming to a stop. When police approached the vehicle, they discovered that one of Parks’ bullets had hit the shoulder and head of Fagre, who investigators later determined had been slumped down out of view in the passenger seat. She died at the hospital.

After reviewing testimony from several officers and witnesses and conducting a forensic evaluation of available physical evidence, the AG’s office determined that Parks’ actions were justified because he reasonably believed that he faced an imminent threat and that using deadly force was necessary to counter that threat.

One piece of evidence that did not help investigators was the footage from the dashcam on Parks’ cruiser, which cut out just before the shooting.

In a deposition Parks gave after he was sued by Fagre’s family, he shared an explanation that the camera’s manufacturer had given the department: The collision caused a power issue that deleted the video from directly before and directly after the crash, though the camera did save footage of the minutes leading up to the shooting and resumed recording again afterward.

Parks declined to discuss the two shootings via a state police spokesperson, who confirmed he is on leave for the shooting of McKenna, as is standard practice after a shooting.


McKenna’s death was not filmed either. While state police have received funding for body cameras, they have yet to implement the technology, Moss said. The department hopes to roll it out by the beginning of 2024.

Dashcams must be installed on cruisers that routinely patrol Maine’s roads and highways, according to a document outlining the department’s policy obtained through a public records request. These cameras and related audio recording equipment must be activated when an officer attempts to make an arrest or when a recording could aid prosecution efforts – such as when police suspect a crime involving a weapon. But according to Moss, there were no cameras to activate on Sept. 13, because the tactical team vehicle is not covered under the dashcam policy and is not equipped with a recording system.


In January, Maine’s Deadly Force Review Panel issued its third annual report to the Legislature. After examining 20 fatal shootings by officers that took place between 2017 and 2022, the group found that victims often had several characteristics that McKenna shared: white men, mental health issues, isolated location and possession of a weapon.

The panel recommended expanding behavioral health services and improving collaboration between law enforcement agencies and health providers. It also called for police to ensure officers are trained in nonlethal weaponry and use body and dashcams whenever possible.

Victims expressed suicidal intent in several of the cases the panel reviewed. Three victims specifically said their intention was to commit “suicide by cop.”


When Drew died in December, Laurie McKenna largely stopped going outside. After Shay’s death, she says she and her husband have taken up smoking. The couple struggles even to hear the suggestion that their son may have threatened police or that he wanted them to shoot him. They say that simply doesn’t align with the person they knew. And why would they believe the official state police account, they ask, when the department can’t provide video of the event and waited some eight hours to inform them of their son’s death?

“Who are they protecting and serving? Themselves?” Laurie McKenna asked. “Clearly they’re cowards. Cowards with guns.”

She expects the AG’s office will determine the shooting was justified, as it has in every police shooting in Maine since at least 1990. But that will not restore her trust in the system.

Hess, Shay’s attorney, is less confident that what happened in the campsite on Sept. 13 amounted to an execution. But he, too, wonders if it could have been avoided.

For him, the tragedy of Shay’s death lies in the many small decisions that led police to Rumford Plantation in the first place. Had prosecutors not pressed charges against a grieving man, had the judge not immediately issued an arrest warrant for one missed court date, had police asked for help bringing McKenna in instead of calling for a tactical team, perhaps he’d still be alive.

“It’s a tragedy that this very gentle human being was cut down so early in his life,” Hess said. “We’ll never know exactly what happened. And that’s terrible for the family.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.