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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by Lewiston Police Officer and Androscoggin County Deputy Sheriff on November 8, 2011
April 17, 2012
In the early morning hours of November 8, 2011, Kyle Corey, 43, of Portland, was shot and wounded by Lewiston police officer Nicholas Meserve and Androscoggin County deputy sheriff Travis Lovering during a confrontation following a vehicle pursuit.
On November 7, 2011, Officer Nicholas Meserve was working a patrol shift that started at 11:00 p.m. He was in uniform and operating a fully marked police cruiser. (All officers involved in the pursuit and the subsequent attempts to take two individuals into custody were in uniform and operating fully marked police cruisers.)
Shortly after midnight on November 8th, he heard over the radio that fellow Lewiston Officer Nathan Hood was in pursuit of a stolen vehicle carrying two unidentified occupants. (The white Ford Focus was reported stolen from Portland on October 29, 2011.) When Officer Meserve heard Officer Hood?s radio traffic, he was less than two blocks away on Sabattus Street.
Officer Meserve saw Officer Hood?s cruiser and the suspect vehicle, a white Ford Focus, cross Pine Street, and he joined the pursuit, falling in behind Officer Hood?s cruiser. During the pursuit, Officer Meserve observed the vehicle traveling without headlights, going through red lights at several four-way intersections, traveling at speeds as high as 70 m.p.h. in congested areas of Lewiston and Auburn, going in the wrong direction on one-way Pine and Ash Streets, and traveling in the oncoming travel lane on Center Street in Auburn. The vehicle pursuit started in Lewiston, went into Auburn, and then back into Lewiston, ending on a dead end street in Lewiston.
Deputy Travis Lovering was at the Androscoggin County Sheriff?s Office on Center Street in Auburn when a dispatcher told him about a chase involving officers from Lewiston and Auburn. He left the Sheriff?s Office, and while he was at the intersection of Turner and Center Street in Auburn, he saw the blue lights of police cruisers following a small white car on Turner Street. Deputy Lovering noted that the small white car was traveling without its headlights on and its operation appeared erratic. He turned on his blue lights and siren and joined the pursuit that included Lewiston and Auburn police cruisers. The pursuit went back into Lewiston before ending on Mill Street, a dead end street.
Apparently recognizing that he and his passenger were trapped at the end of the street, the driver attempted to turn around and, in so doing, backed into Officer Hood?s cruiser. Upon hitting the cruiser, the Ford Focus stopped and the driver got out of the car and ran into an alleyway near the Chestnut Street parking garage. Officer Hood and another officer ran after the fleeing driver. The driver, later identified as Richard Thorpe, 30, of Norway, was located a few minutes later and taken into custody after physically resisting the officers.
Officer Meserve remained with the Ford Focus. His attention was focused on the passenger, later identified as Kyle Corey, who was trying to get out of the car through the passenger side door. To prevent Mr. Corey from using the passenger?s side door, Officer Meserve moved his cruiser toward the Ford Focus and positioned it so that the cruiser?s front bumper pinned the passenger?s side door closed. When Mr. Corey moved into the driver?s seat, Officer Meserve believed that Mr. Corey would try to flee through the driver?s side door. Officer Meserve left his cruiser, which was still positioned against the passenger?s side door, and went to the driver?s side door of the Ford Focus to intercept Mr. Corey if he attempted to escape. In the meantime, other officers had arrived on Mill Street.
Officer Meserve was within an arm?s length of the driver?s door as he issued verbal commands to Mr. Corey to show his hands and get out of the vehicle. Mr. Corey did not respond to the verbal commands; instead, just as Officer Meserve was reaching for the door handle, Mr. Corey put the vehicle in reverse and accelerated causing the vehicle?s front end to swing toward the officer. Officer Meserve was struck by the vehicle and knocked to the ground.
Deputy Lovering was near Officer Meserve when the Ford Focus knocked the officer down. Deputy Lovering drew his duty weapon and ordered Mr. Corey to stop the vehicle. Mr. Corey did not heed Deputy Lovering?s command, but drove the Ford Focus in a forward direction directly at Deputy Lovering. The Ford Focus was 15 to 20 feet from Deputy Lovering when Deputy Lovering took several steps to the right to get out of its path. At the same time and being fearful that the vehicle would run him over, Officer Meserve had gotten back on his feet and was standing. Officer Meserve drew his weapon, and both Officer Meserve and Deputy Lovering fired their weapons at the driver in the moving vehicle.
As the two officers fired their weapons, they were about an arm?s length from each other and within ten feet of the moving vehicle. The vehicle continued another 20 feet past them before going through a chain link fence and stopping. Both officers reloaded their weapons and approached the stopped vehicle. Mr. Corey could be seen moving inside the vehicle, but he continued to fail to comply with the officers? demands that he show his hands and get out of the vehicle. Mr. Corey continued moving around the vehicle and appeared to be fumbling with things in the car. When Mr. Corey was ordered to show his hands, Mr. Corey would show only one hand at a time.
During what became about a half-hour standoff with the officers, Mr. Corey was talking, he smoked a cigarette, and he made a call on a cellular telephone. Mr. Corey told officers that he knew he had hit an officer with the car, and he wanted to know if the officer was all right. Mr. Corey was finally persuaded to surrender to the police. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment of a single gunshot wound to his left shoulder. (Because the bullet that struck Mr. Corey was not removed, it is not known which officer actually shot Mr. Corey.)
Officer Meserve sustained injuries to his knee and ankle, as well as abrasions and contusions, when he was struck and knocked down by the Ford Focus driven by Mr. Corey.
Kyle Corey was charged with theft, refusing to stop for an officer, aggravated assault, and assault on an officer. Richard Thorpe was charged with refusing to stop for an officer, theft, carrying a concealed weapon, and refusing to submit to arrest. Both individuals had extensive criminal records prior to the incident on November 8th in Lewiston. Mr. Corey?s criminal record dates back to 1987 and Mr. Thorpe?s back to 2000.
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 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 a particular use of force is reasonable is based on the totality of the specific 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 shots were fired at Mr. Corey by Officer Meserve and Deputy Lovering, it was reasonable for both officers to believe that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against them, as well as other officers, and it was reasonable for both officers to believe that it was necessary for them to use deadly force to protect themselves and other officers from the imminent threat of deadly force posed by Mr. Corey?s actions. The Attorney General?s conclusions are based on an extensive scene investigation, interviews with numerous individuals, and review of all evidence made available from any source.