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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by State Game Warden on November 10, 2011 in Rumford
May 9, 2012
On Thursday, November 10, 2011, Eric Richard, 46, of Rumford, was shot and killed by Game Warden Jeremy Judd during an armed confrontation in the woods behind Richard’s residence in Rumford.
Jeremy Judd has been a state game warden for nine years. On November 10, 2011, he was dispatched to Rumford to help search for Eric Richard, 46, of Rumford. Warden Judd learned that Mr. Richard was a parttime police officer and worked fulltime for the Rumford Police Department as an administrative officer. Warden Judd also learned that Mr. Richard was potentially suicidal and armed with at least a handgun. He was told that Mr. Richard had ventured by himself into a wooded area behind his residence in Rumford the previous evening and had not returned home. Through the night, after the discovery of a note left by Mr. Richard in which he suggested suicidal intent, several unsuccessful attempts were made by other officers to contact him.
A search team was assembled, which consisted of Warden Judd, two other game wardens, and two State Police troopers, one of whom was accompanied by a tracking dog. All five officers were in uniform. The members of the search team, as well as family members and other law enforcement officials associated with the attempts to locate Mr. Richard, were aware that Mr. Richard was disheartened because he was being investigated in his capacity as an officer of the Rumford Police Department. It was learned that Mr. Richard, upon leaving work the day before, had informed the duty sergeant at the police department that he would not be into work the next day.
After about an hour of searching in the woods, the tracking dog led the five searchers to an area at the base of a rock ledge where Mr. Richard was observed sitting on the ground wrapped in a tarp and large plastic bags. It appeared that Mr. Richard had spent the night in that location and used the tarp and plastic bags to keep warm. Because of Mr. Richard’s motionless stance and his failure to recognize the presence of the searchers, some of the members of the search team thought that he was deceased. Members of the search team instructed Mr. Richard to “show your hands,” and one of the troopers warned Mr. Richard that a dog would be sent in if he did not comply with the instructions. One member of the team, who personally knew Mr. Richard, identified himself and addressed Mr. Richard by name, but Mr. Richard still did not move or otherwise respond. As the search team got closer, Warden Judd, who was about 15-20 feet away, saw Mr. Richard turn his head and look in his direction. At the same time, Mr. Richard removed his right hand from under the tarp and displayed a handgun. Mr. Richard pointed the handgun at Warden Judd and other officers in the search team. Several members of the search team observed this action by Mr. Richard and shouted commands for him to drop the gun. Warden Judd fired three rounds at Mr. Richard from the .223 caliber rifle he was carrying. Later investigation determined that all three rounds struck Mr. Richard, resulting in his death at the scene.
Detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene to conduct an investigation. They were assisted by several members of the State Police, as well as members of the Maine Warden Service, the Rumford Police Department, and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. The deputy chief state medical examiner, Dr. Michael Ferenc, conducted an investigation at the scene and later conducted an autopsy in Augusta, as a result of which he determined the cause of Mr. Richard’s death to be multiple gunshot wounds. The weapon brandished by Mr. Richard was a fully loaded and ready to fire 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
Analysis and Conclusion
The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating the circumstances under which any law enforcement officer uses deadly force in Maine 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, was 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 any person, including a law enforcement officer, to be justified in using deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or someone else, and, second, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.
Whether deadly force by a law enforcement officer is reasonable is based on the totality of the particular circumstances, and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. The analysis requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of a particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.
Attorney General William J. Schneider has concluded that at the time Warden Judd fired his weapon at Mr. Richard, it was reasonable for Warden Judd to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him and other officers, and it was reasonable for Warden Judd to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself and the other officers from the imminent threat of deadly force posed by Mr. Richard’s actions.