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Report of Attorney General William J. Schneider on the Use of Deadly Force by State Police Trooper in Lamoine on October 23, 2012
January 4, 2013
On Tuesday, October 23, 2012, Leon Tilden, 27, was shot and killed by State Police Detective Randall Keaten during an armed confrontation near Mr. Tilden’s residence on Bobolink Lane in Lamoine.
On October 23, at approximately 3:30 a.m., the Hancock Regional Communications Center (RCC) received a 911 call from a woman on Bobolink Lane in Lamoine who reported that her son, Leon Tilden, had shot both her husband and her brother outside her residence. The caller said that Mr. Tilden had left the area in his father’s pickup truck.
A Hancock County deputy sheriff arrived at the residence minutes later, and observed the bodies of two men on the ground outside the residence. The men were later identified as Robert Tilden, 50, the father of Leon Tilden, and Russell Pinkham, also 50, Leon Tilden’s uncle. Investigation at the scene later determined that Leon Tilden had shot and killed his father outside the residence. When apparently confronted by his uncle, he shot and killed him, as well. The exact whereabouts of Leon Tilden was not known, although Robert Tilden’s pickup truck in which Leon Tilden was believed to have left the area was seen parked a short distance away near Mr. Pinkham’s residence on Bobolink Lane. Because it was believed that Leon Tilden was still in the area, the State Police Tactical Team was summoned.
Over the next several hours, as members of the Tactical Team arrived they were deployed in positions around both the Tilden and Pinkham residences, relieving the officers who had been stationed in similar positions. One of the members of the team so deployed was Detective Randall Keaten. As members of the Tactical Team took up positions, they received reports that Mr. Tilden was possibly in possession of several firearms, including a 30.06 rifle, a 30.30 rifle, a .410 shotgun, a 20 gauge shotgun, and a .22 caliber pistol. The team was also informed that Mr. Tilden had been arrested in the past for assault and terrorizing, and that he had been arguing with family members during the previous days about his discharging firearms at night near the Tilden and Pinkham residences. Tactical Team members were also aware of reports that Mr. Tilden had expressed a desire at some point in the past to engage in a shootout with the police.
Members of the Tactical Team were starting to search outbuildings on the Tilden property when another member of the Team watching the Pinkham residence a few hundred feet away reported that Mr. Tilden had just come out of the Pinkham residence and then immediately disappeared from view. It was later established through other witnesses that Mr. Tilden had seen the activity of the officers searching outbuildings at his parents’ residence, and that he had stayed close to the side of the Pinkham residence after leaving the residence in order to conceal his presence from the officers and escape into a wooded area of dense vegetation. A few of the officers deployed around the Pinkham residence caught glimpses of Mr. Tilden, armed with a long gun, as he moved quickly into the wooded area.
Within minutes of hearing that Mr. Tilden had fled the Pinkham residence, Det. Keaten saw him running along a trail which was parallel to and approximately 20 yards from his position. He noted that Mr. Tilden was carrying a shotgun and running in the direction of the other Tactical Team members who were still in the area of the Tilden residence. Concerned with Mr. Tilden’s close proximity and believing that Mr. Tilden may be trying to flank team members placing them in imminent danger, Det. Keaten fired several rounds at Mr. Tilden from a distance of about 15 yards. Struck by the gunfire, Mr. Tilden fell to the ground where he was taken into custody and provided immediate medical aid by a Tactical Team medic and local emergency medical services personnel. It was at this time that it was discovered that in addition to the shotgun, Mr. Tilden was armed with a pistol and several loaded magazines. A sawed-off shotgun that Mr. Tilden had been carrying was also found near him. Later, an additional firearm, a high-powered semi-automatic rifle, was found in Robert Tilden’s pickup truck, which was the vehicle used by Leon Tilden when he initially left the scene of the homicides. Mortally wounded by the gunfire, Mr. Tilden was transported by helicopter to a Bangor hospital where he later died.
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 Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, and Dr. Edward David of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Michael Ferenc, conducted a post mortem examination the next day in which he determined the cause of Mr. Tilden’s death to be multiple gunshot wounds. Dr. Ferenc also found the pattern of the gunshot wounds to be consistent with Mr. Tilden having been carrying a long gun with his right hand on the trigger and his left hand supporting the barrel when he was shot by Detective Keaten.
Analysis and Conclusion
The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating any use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer 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, is reasonably generated by 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.
In addition to the legal justification for the use of deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, a law enforcement officer is justified in limited circumstances in using deadly force to make an arrest or to prevent an escape. Specifically, a law enforcement officer is justified in using deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary and the officer reasonably believes that the person (1) has committed a crime involving the use or threatened use of deadly force, (2) is using a dangerous weapon in attempting to escape, or (3) otherwise indicates that the person is likely to endanger human life or to inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay. When using deadly force to make an arrest or prevent an escape, the officer must first make reasonable efforts to advise the person that the officer is a law enforcement officer, and the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is aware of this advice.
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 shots were fired at Mr. Tilden by Detective Keaten, it was reasonable for Detective Keaten to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him and other Tactical Team members, and it was reasonable for Detective Keaten to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself and other officers from the imminent threat of deadly force posed against them by Mr. Tilden. Moreover, Attorney General Schneider determined that Detective Keaten reasonably believed that Mr. Tilden had committed crimes involving the use of deadly force, was using a dangerous weapon in attempting to escape, and was likely to seriously endanger human life unless apprehended without delay.
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.
It is beyond the scope of this report and beyond the authority and expertise of this office to determine Leon Tilden’s motivations, his state of mind, or the medical or psychological underpinnings of his behavior and actions on October 23, 2012.
CONTACT: Martha Demeritt, (207) 626-8599