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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by State Police Trooper on September 24, 2011 in Farmingdale
February 27, 2012
During the evening of Saturday, September 24, 2011, Paul A. Fritze, 41, of Farmingdale, was shot and killed by Trooper Timothy Black of the Maine State Police Tactical Team during an armed confrontation outside a residence on Bowman Street in Farmingdale.
Timothy Black has been a state police trooper for 13 years and a member of the State Police Tactical Team for five years. In the early evening of September 24, 2011, he responded to Bowman Street in Farmingdale as a member of the Tactical Team. Upon arrival, he learned that a man, identified as Paul A. Fritze, had, about two hours earlier, gone to a neighbor?s home on Bowman Street with a firearm, threatened the two occupants of the home with the firearm, and discharged several rounds inside the house. One of the occupants of the house had been forced by gunpoint into the basement, but managed to escape the house through a basement window. The other occupant fled from the home after Mr. Fritze fired several shots inside the house. Trooper Black learned that while both occupants of the house had managed to flee, Mr. Fritze remained inside the house and was still armed.
Trooper Black and another Tactical Team member were assigned to a position on the east side of the Bowman Street residence. The position afforded Trooper Black a view of the home?s primary entrance, and its driveway. He was armed with a rifle equipped with a scope. Trooper Black was about 130 feet from the residence. Once in position, Trooper Black monitored radio traffic from other team members that included information about the attempts of a State Police crisis negotiator to establish contact with Mr. Fritze by telephone. Trooper Black also heard a team member report that he could see the person believed to be Mr. Fritze inside the house.
For nearly two hours and without success, various attempts were made by a crisis negotiator to reach Mr. Fritze by telephone. Trooper Black learned that other team members were going to get closer to the house by positioning the team?s fully-marked armored vehicle in the driveway of the residence. From this closer position, further attempts were made to make contact with Mr. Fritze. Inside the vehicle were a negotiator and several members of the Tactical Team. Members of the team were in and out of the vehicle at various times.
Trooper Black heard a negotiator attempt to make contact with Mr. Fritze on a public address system. Less than a half hour later, Trooper Black saw Mr. Fritze come out the door of the house onto a deck on the east side of the house. He could only see Mr. Fritze from the waist up. Mr. Fritze had an object in his left hand that Trooper Black, given his limited field of view at that point, could not identify. In response to the negotiator?s request that Mr. Fritze answer the telephone, Mr. Fritze shouted, ?I don?t have a [expletive] phone.?
Trooper Black watched Mr. Fritze go back into the house and come back out. When Mr. Fritze came out of the house this time, Trooper Black saw a black pistol in his right hand through the scope on his rifle. He saw Mr. Fritze turn, raise the weapon toward the armored vehicle, and shout, ?I don?t have a [expletive] phone if you want a gun battle here.? Fearing that Mr. Fritze would shoot Tactical Team members near the armored vehicle, Trooper Black fired one shot at Mr. Fritze. The round struck Mr. Fritze, who fell to the deck. The single shot was fatal. About four hours had elapsed from the time that Mr. Fritze entered the house and fired shots, forcing the two occupants to flee the house, and the time of his death. About two hours had elapsed from the arrival and deployment of the State Police Tactical Team.
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, including evidence technicians and detectives. The investigation disclosed that Mr. Fritze had sent text messages to the male occupant of the home during the morning of September 24. In one of the messages, Mr. Fritze asked to come to the man?s house to play cards. The recipient of the message declined the invitation saying that it was his birthday and he just wanted to take it easy. This was followed by other text messages from Mr. Fritze to the man, some of which were offensive in nature. Later in the afternoon, apparently feeling rebuffed, Mr. Fritze went to the home and confronted the male occupant with a handgun outside the house. Holding the gun to the man?s head, Mr. Fritze ordered him to go inside the house and sit at the kitchen table. Mr. Fritze smoked a cigarette, and then ordered the man to summon his housemate from her bedroom. Mr. Fritze ordered the man at gunpoint to the basement of the house. The man did as commanded, but managed to flee the residence through a window. Observing these interactions between Mr. Fritze and her housemate, the female occupant of the house locked herself in her bedroom, hid in a closet, and called 911. When she refused commands from Mr. Fritze to come out of the bedroom and go to the basement, Mr. Fritze fired multiple rounds into the woman?s locked bedroom door. The woman was able to escape the house through a sliding glass door onto a raised deck where she was helped to the ground by the male occupant. They heard an additional gunshot from inside the house.
The weapon brandished by Mr. Fritze at the time he was shot was a Beretta 9mm semi-automatic pistol ready to fire. It had one round in the chamber and 11 in the magazine. Additional live rounds were found in Mr. Fritze?s pocket. It was determined that at least 12 rounds were fired by Mr. Fritze into the door of the female occupant?s bedroom, including one round into the doorknob itself in an apparent attempt to gain entry to the bedroom. Given the weapon?s capacity of 16 rounds, Mr. Fritze would have had to reload between the time he fired the first rounds in the house and the time he encountered Tactical Team officers outside the residence. A second gun, a Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic pistol, was found in the basement of the house. The pistol did not belong to the occupants of the home. While it could not be conclusively determined that this second gun belonged to Mr. Fritze, a Smith & Wesson 9mm magazine was later found at Mr. Fritze?s residence.
At the time he was shot, Mr. Fritze?s blood alcohol content was 0.28%. Mr. Fritze?s criminal history included commandeering a bus with passengers at gunpoint in New Jersey in 1993, an event for which he was convicted and sentenced in 1994 to five years in state prison and three years parole. In 1999, Mr. Fritze was convicted in Maine on a federal charge of possession of a firearm by a felon and sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and 36 months of supervised release.
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 in this matter was 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 did 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 reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or someone else, and, second, the person must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.
Whether a use of force 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 Trooper Black fired the shot at Mr. Fritze, it was reasonable for Trooper Black to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against other officers, and it was reasonable for Trooper Black to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect the officers from the imminent threat of deadly force posed by Mr. Fritze?s actions.