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Attorney General's Findings re: April 23, 2010 Cyr Plantation Shooting
July 27, 2010
On the morning of April 23, 2010, Maine State Police Trooper Robert Flynn was dispatched to Van Buren to investigate a report that Neil Begin had threatened his wife, his adult son, and his son?s girlfriend with a high-powered hunting rifle the previous night at the family?s residence in Cyr Plantation. Begin was described by family members as highly intoxicated at the time of the threats.
From interviewing the victims and witnesses, Trooper Flynn learned that Begin had been drinking heavily the previous night and had become increasingly abusive to family members at the residence. He was told that Begin pointed the loaded rifle at his son, threatened to shoot him and, in succession, pointed the loaded rifle at his wife and his son?s girlfriend. At one point, according to the victims, Begin ?panned? the rifle, alternately pointing it at the wife, the son and the son?s girlfriend, threatening to shoot all of them. At other times, they said, Begin challenged his son to fight him, telling his son that he would kill him and that he (the son) would never get up again. Eventually Begin and the others went to bed. Begin woke up his wife later in the morning and told her to get out of the residence and take their son and the son?s girlfriend with her. Begin let them gather a few clothes, all the while continuing to challenge the son to a fight. At some point Begin assaulted his son by grabbing him by the throat and throwing him against the wall, threatening to kill him.
Following his interviews with Begin?s family members, Trooper Flynn met with two Border Patrol officers, Robert Kipler and Rick Romann, who were patrolling together in a single vehicle in Van Buren. The officers agreed to follow Flynn to the Begin residence in Cyr Plantation. Trooper Flynn confirmed with the District Attorney?s Office in Caribou that the information disclosed in his investigation constituted probable cause to believe that Begin had engaged in the felony of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon. Trooper Flynn told the Border Patrol officers that he intended to go to the Begin residence in Cyr Plantation to speak with Begin and to arrest him.
The Begin residence is located on Route 1 south of Van Buren. The residence is situated close to the highway and is visible from the road. Trooper Flynn was in uniform and driving a marked police cruiser. Officers Kipler and Romann were also in uniform; they followed Trooper Flynn to the residence in Cyr Plantation in their own marked cruiser. None of the officers had had previous negative dealings with Mr. Begin; the only information they were aware of regarding Mr. Begin?s behavior was the information from the family members just before the approach to the residence.
The officers arrived at the residence on Route 1 at about 11 a.m. and parked their cruisers along Route 1 within sight of the mobile home. Trooper Flynn approached the mobile home and, unable to observe any movement inside the home, entered an open porch that provided access to the main entrance of the mobile home. At the door, Trooper Flynn shouted, ?Trooper Flynn, Maine State Police. Come to the door. Leave the gun behind, and come to the door.? Trooper Flynn could see Begin?s face through a small window high on the door and heard Begin say something unintelligible. He again told Begin to come outside and leave the gun behind. This was followed by commands of ?show me your hands,? and ?leave the gun inside.? The only verbal response from Begin was, ?Why?? Begin showed one of his hands, but refused to show both his hands and refused to open the door.
Through another window, Trooper Flynn saw Begin leave the door and run to the rear of the mobile home carrying a rifle. Trooper Flynn told the Border Patrol officers that Begin was running to the other end of the trailer and that he was armed. Trooper Flynn tried to open the door, but it was locked. He forced the door open and entered the home, followed by the other officers. The officers saw Begin at the opposite end of a hallway, and they heard Begin working the bolt action of a rifle.
Although daytime, the inside of the mobile home was dark and the officers used their flashlights to illuminate the hallway. The officers saw Begin moving back and forth and holding a rifle. The officers told him several times to drop the weapon. Begin?s only response was ?why?? and ?I didn?t do anything.? Trooper Flynn told Begin that he was under arrest for threatening his wife and son with a firearm; Begin responded, ?No,? and instructed the officers to get out of the house.
The officers observed Begin holding the rifle with his right hand. As he moved his other hand to the rifle, Trooper Flynn told him again to drop the weapon. Begin responded by moving so that the rifle was pointed at waist level toward the officers. Believing that Begin was about to fire the rifle, Trooper Flynn fired his service pistol and Officer Kipler fired a patrol rifle at Begin. Begin disappeared from sight behind a wall into a room. Trooper Flynn instructed Begin to ?show your hands? and to come out of the room; Begin responded, ?You shot me.? Only a few seconds elapsed before the officers saw Begin reappear from behind the wall and saw that he was still armed with the rifle. Begin again refused commands to drop the weapon. Flynn and Kipler fired at Begin again, and Begin fell to the floor. As the officers approached him, they could see the rifle behind him as well as a second firearm next to him.
Later investigation determined that Begin was struck five times by gunfire and died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. He was initially treated at a hospital in Caribou and thereafter transferred to a hospital in Bangor where he died. At the time of his admission to the Caribou hospital, Begin?s blood alcohol concentration was 0.248%.
An audio recording captured through a remote microphone on Trooper Flynn?s uniform that was connected to his cruiser?s recording system disclosed the following:
Within 50 seconds of his arrival at the Begin residence, Trooper Flynn was at the door of the residence addressing Begin and ordering him to come to the door without the gun.
About two minutes elapsed before Trooper Flynn is heard telling the Border Patrol officers that Begin had gone to back of the house with the gun.
Six seconds later, Trooper Flynn is heard ordering Begin to drop the gun. Trooper Flynn is also heard telling Begin that he heard him ?rack? the bolt action of the rifle.
One minute and 12 seconds later, Trooper Flynn is heard telling Begin not to move his hand again or he will shoot.
Twenty-two seconds elapse when the first volley of shots fired by Trooper Flynn and Border Patrol Officer Kipler is heard, as are continuing commands for Begin to drop the rifle.
About 23 seconds later, the second volley of shots fired by Flynn and Kipler is heard, as well as continuing commands to drop the rifle.
Detectives from the Attorney General?s Office went to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation with the assistance of the State Police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Recovered from Begin?s residence near where he was shot were a bolt-action 30.06 rifle and a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle. The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was also called to remove a number of marijuana plants from the home.
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 in law, is reasonably generated on the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution. The review does not include whether there could be any 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.
Based on the above facts, the Attorney General has concluded that at the time that shots were fired on Mr. Begin, it was reasonable for Trooper Flynn and Officer Kipler to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against them and against Border Patrol Officer Rick Romann. In addition, both officers reasonably believed it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves and Officer Romann from the imminent threat of deadly force. No criminal action will ensue against the officers involved in this tragic incident.
CONTACT: Kate Simmons (207) 626-8577