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Report Of The Attorney General On The Use Of Deadly Force By Kennebunk Police Officer Morneau On March 27, 2011 In Kennebunk
August 2, 2011
On the night of March 27, 2011, Katherine Paulson, 39, was shot and killed by Kennebunk police officer Joshua Morneau during an armed confrontation at the Paulson home in Kennebunk where Ms. Paulson lived with her elderly mother.
Just before 9 p.m. on March 27, 2011, Katherine Paulson’s mother called 911 to report that she was “having a domestic dispute with [her] adult daughter,” and that she was afraid for her wellbeing. The caller told the dispatcher that Katherine Paulson lived with her on Nottingham Court in Kennebunk, and that she wanted her removed from the home. The dispatcher determined that the dispute was verbal in nature and did not include any sort of physical altercation. When asked if she had been assaulted, the mother responded, “No, not this evening.” Within minutes two Kennebunk police officers, Officer Joshua Morneau and Sgt. Juliet Gilman, arrived at the home. Both officers were in uniform and driving marked police cruisers. The telephone connection between the mother and the dispatcher remained opened.
Officer Morneau was the first to meet the mother at the door to the home, followed closely by Sgt. Gilman. Both officers were invited into the home by the mother, who described the problems she had been experiencing that evening with Katherine Paulson and Katherine’s refusal to leave. While Sgt. Gilman spoke further with the mother, Officer Morneau met Katherine Paulson in the home’s small galley kitchen. Ms. Paulson was leaning against a counter with her arms folded and did not respond to Officer Morneau’s greeting or his attempts to engage her in dialogue. Based on Ms. Paulson’s stance and demeanor, Officer Morneau formed the opinion that Ms. Paulson was angry because of the police presence.
When Officer Morneau introduced himself, Ms. Paulson turned slightly to her right and removed a large knife from a butcher block holder on the kitchen counter. Later investigation determined that the knife was 13½ inches long with an eight-inch blade. Ms. Paulson turned to face Officer Morneau with the knife in her hand. Officer Moreau started moving backwards while drawing his service weapon and ordering Ms. Paulson to drop the knife. She did not comply. Instead, she advanced on Officer Morneau. Officer Morneau moved backwards until he was unable to retreat further because of a physical obstruction. Officer Morneau continued to command Ms. Paulson to drop the knife. When Ms. Paulson was about four feet from Officer Morneau and still advancing, Officer Morneau discharged four shots at her. Later examination by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta determined that all four rounds struck Ms. Paulson, and that she died at the scene from the multiple gunshot wounds.
No more than 19 seconds passed from the time the officers arrived at the Paulson home to the time that Officer Morneau shot Katherine Paulson.
Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General went to Kennebunk the night of the shooting to investigate the incident. They were assisted by State Police detectives and evidence technicians, as well as the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The Kennebunk Police Department cooperated fully with the investigation, and later convened its own internal review of the incident.
The Kennebunk Police Department had no prior history with Katherine Paulson but Ms. Paulson did have history with police in Massachusetts. The investigation determined that during the years that Ms. Paulson lived in Hamilton, Massachusetts, the Hamilton police had contact with her at least 18 times beginning in about 1988. These interactions with the Hamilton police were primarily calls that resulted in Ms. Paulson being taken into protective custody after exhibiting symptoms of mental illness and becoming physically combative with officers. Criminal history record information in Massachusetts also showed that Ms. Paulson was arrested in 1997 in Saugus and in 2000 in Wenham. Ms. Paulson’s Saugus arrest involved an alleged assault on a police officer “by a dangerous weapon.” Ms. Paulson’s arrest in Wenham was for allegedly assaulting three police officers with a dangerous weapon.
Analysis and Conclusion
The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating any law enforcement officer who uses deadly force while acting in the performance of the officer's duties. The sole purpose of the Attorney General’s investigation is to determine whether self-defense or the defense of others, as defined by law, is reasonably generated by the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution. The review does not include an analysis of potential civil liability, whether any administrative action is warranted, or whether the use of deadly force could have been averted.
Under Maine law, for an individual to be justified in using deadly force for self-defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the individual must reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the individual or against someone else, and, second, the individual must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.
Attorney General William J. Schneider has concluded that at the time shots were fired at Ms. Paulson by Officer Morneau, it was reasonable for Officer Morneau to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him, Sgt. Gilman and Ms. Paulson’s mother. In addition, it was reasonable for Officer Morneau to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself and the others from the imminent threat of deadly force posed against them by Ms. Paulson’s actions. This conclusion is based on an extensive scene investigation, interviews with numerous individuals, review of medical records, and all other evidence made available from any source.
Ms. Paulson’s state of mind, her motivation, or the medical or psychological foundation of her behavior and actions the evening of March 27, 2011 is beyond the scope of this report and beyond the authority and expertise of this office.
CONTACT: Brenda Kielty (207)626-8577