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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by Farmington Police Officer on November 19, 2011
May 14, 2012
Late Saturday morning, November 19, 2011, Justin Crowley-Smilek, 28, of Farmington, was shot and killed by Farmington police officer Ryan Rosie during an armed confrontation in front of the Farmington Town Hall.
Officer Rosie, who was hired by the Farmington Police Department in June 2011, was working the day shift on November 19, 2011. He would be joined later in the morning by Officer Ted Neil. Both officers were in uniform. They were inside the police station shortly before 11 a.m. when someone activated a buzzer that alerts officers inside the building that someone is waiting outside the building to speak with an officer. It is also a voice communication connection to the Regional Communication Center in Farmington. After hearing the buzzer, Officers Rosie and Neil checked the front and rear entrances of the building, but found no one. A short time later, the buzzer sounded a second time and the officers again checked the front and rear entrances to the building, and found no one.
After answering the buzzer the second time, Officer Rosie received a telephone call from the Regional Communications Center informing him that a person was waiting outside the police department to speak with an officer. He was also told that the person refused to provide his name and said that “there had better be two officers.” This was at 11:01 a.m. Officer Rosie went to the front entrance of the building. He observed no one until he stepped outside the building where he saw a man – later identified to be Justin Crowley-Smilek – walking away. Officer Rosie shouted, “Sir, can I help you?” Mr. Crowley-Smilek did not respond. He continued to walk away toward the street. Officer Rosie shouted again and Mr. Crowley-Smilek stopped walking, turned around and, with his hands in his coat pockets, started walking at a brisk pace straight toward Officer Rosie. He did not speak. Officer Rosie did not know the man.
Officer Rosie tried to engage Mr. Crowley-Smilek in conversation, but was unsuccessful. Mr. Crowley-Smilek continued walking swiftly toward the officer. When he was about half-way to Officer Rosie’s position, Officer Rosie instructed him to take his hands out of his pockets. Mr. Crowley-Smilek did not comply. He continued to advance on Officer Rosie. Officer Rosie’s fully marked police cruiser was parked nearby in front of the town hall. Officer Rosie moved to the front of the cruiser so that it would be between him and the still advancing Mr. Crowley-Smilek. Before reaching the rear of the cruiser, Mr. Crowley-Smilek took his hands from his coat pockets and in his left hand he was holding a black handled knife with an exposed blade. (It was later determined that the kitchen-type butcher knife was 13 inches long with an eight-inch blade and five-inch handle.) Mr. Crowley-Smilek held the knife out at arm’s length in front of his body in a threatening display toward Officer Rosie as he continued moving toward the officer.
Officer Rosie drew his service weapon when he saw the knife. He asked Mr. Crowley-Smilek what he was doing and Mr. Crowley-Smilek responded, “You’d better kill me now.” Mr. Crowley-Smilek ran at Officer Rosie and Officer Rosie responded by moving away from him. Officer Rosie continued to match Mr. Crowley-Smilek’s moves while keeping the cruiser between them. While Mr. Crowley-Smilek chased Officer Rosie, he repeated two more times, “You’d better kill me now.”
At 11:05 a.m., Officer Rosie used his lapel microphone to call for help. Officer Rosie continued to match Mr. Crowley-Smilek’s movements including changing directions in response to Mr. Crowley-Smilek. By now, Officer Rosie was near the front of the cruiser and Mr. Crowley-Smilek, who was still holding the knife out in front of him, charged at Officer Rosie. Officer Rosie fired his weapon until Mr. Crowley-Smilek, struck by the gunfire, fell to the ground.
When Officer Rosie approached Mr. Crowley-Smilek, Mr. Crowley-Smilek said, “Kill me.” Mr. Crowley-Smilek’s left arm and hand was beneath his body and Officer Rosie, while asking him if he had more weapons, pulled his arm out to check for weapons. At this point, Officer Neil came out of the police station and, seconds later, Detective Marc Bowering was on scene. Mr. Crowley-Smilek died at the scene shortly after being shot.
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 Farmington Police Department, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Dr. Margaret Greenwald, the chief state medical examiner, conducted an investigation at the scene and later conducted a post-mortem examination in Augusta. She determined the cause of Mr. Crowley-Smilek’s death to be multiple gunshot wounds.
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 unlawful 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 Officer Rosie fired his weapon at Mr. Crowley-Smilek, it was reasonable for Officer Rosie to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him, and it was reasonable for Officer Rosie to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself from the imminent threat of unlawful deadly force posed by the actions of Mr. Crowley-Smilek.