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WESTBROOK POLICE USE OF DEADLY FORCE FOUND LEGALLY JUSTIFIED
July 7, 2004
JULY 7, 2004
CHARLES DOW, DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS & LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, 207-626-8577
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that three Westbrook police officers, Sergeant Michael McCaffrey and Officers Thomas S. Roche, Jr., and John S. Hanlon, Jr., were legally justified when they intentionally shot and wounded Thomas J. Moulton, 41, of
The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by the officers in the particular situation was legally justified. The Attorney General is required by law to review all occurrences in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force while in the performance of the officer’s public duty.
In this particular case, in order to assess whether the use of deadly force by the law enforcement officers involved was legally justified, two distinct legal justification bases under Maine law must be applied; the first relating to self-protection or the protection of third persons, the second relating to thwarting suicide or self-inflicted serious bodily injury.
As to the first basis—under Maine law, for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force for purposes of self-protection or the protection of third persons, two requirements must be met. First, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that unlawful deadly force is imminently threatened against the officer or a third person. Second, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that the officer's use of deadly force is necessary to meet or counter that imminent threat of unlawful deadly force.
As to the second basis—under Maine law, for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force for purposes of thwarting suicide or self-inflicted serious bodily injury, two requirements must be met. First, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that another person is about to commit suicide or to self-inflict serious bodily injury. Second, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that the officer’s use of deadly force is necessary to thwart that other person’s imminent suicide or self-inflicted serious bodily injury.
Attorney General Rowe determined, based on the investigation conducted by his office and application of controlling Maine law, that Sergeant Joyce of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office, actually and reasonably believed that Thomas Moulton was either about to commit suicide or about to inflict serious bodily injury upon himself, or that Thomas Moulton was about to use unlawful deadly force against Officer Roche of the Westbrook Police Department or other officers present, and that his intentional discharge of four beanbag rounds at Thomas Moulton was necessary to thwart those imminent alternative threats.
Therefore, the requirements of the law were met, and the use of deadly force by Sergeant Joyce was legally justified. Attorney General Rowe also determined, based on the investigation conducted by his office and the application of controlling
The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:
In the early morning hours of April 22, 2004, a white Chevrolet Camaro with a flat tire was observed by two citizens as it noisily traveled east at a high rate of speed on Route 25 in Westbrook.
Around 1:15 a.m. on April 22nd, three other citizens happened upon the white Camaro which was sitting with its parking lights on in the eastbound travel lane of the Westbrook Arterial (Route 25) near the
Events at the White Camaro
Officer Roche, responding to the citizen call of a disabled vehicle in the eastbound travel lane of the Westbrook Arterial near the
Standoff on the Embankment
Officers Roche and DellIsola and Sergeant McCaffrey took up positions in a rough semicircle to Moulton’s front, illuminating Moulton with their flashlights. Officer Roche was closest to Moulton and assumed the primary role of negotiating with him. From the very outset Moulton made it clear that he wanted to die, that he had nothing to live for, and that it was his intent to commit suicide either by his own hand or by getting the officers to shoot him. A minute or so into the confrontation, Officer Pulsoni appeared on the far side of the fencing behind Moulton. Pulsoni, aided by his flashlight, directed a stream of disabling chemical directly into Moulton’s face. Moulton, apart from looking briefly towards Pulsoni and wiping his face with the bottom portion of his shirt, was unaffected. Also, soon after the confrontation began, Sergeant McCaffrey recognized Moulton’s voice as that of Tom Moulton from prior contacts with Moulton years before and shared that information with the other officers and Moulton himself.
For nearly an hour Officer Roche, and the other officers at the scene (including officer Hanlon and Westbrook Police Chief, Paul McCaffrey, both of whom had since joined the other officers) sought to get Moulton to lay down his knife. During this period Officer Roche unsuccessfully sought to persuade Moulton that the officers did not intend to take him to jail, but instead wanted to transport him to a medical facility where he could get help. In response to Officer Roche’s repeated requests that Moulton drop the knife and let the police help him, Moulton stated that he wanted to die and invited Officer Roche to shoot him. The standoff communications between Officer Roche and Moulton were interspersed with serious imminent threats of suicide either by placing his knife at his own neck or breast, sometimes employing one hand, other times employing both hands, or by sudden one to two-step advances, usually toward Officer Roche, with the knife pointed threatenly outward at the officer. In the latter circumstance, Roche and the other officers would point their service weapons at Moulton and order him to halt. In each instance he would then comply.
Toward the end of the first hour during this lengthy negotiation period, Deputy Paul Thorpe, a trained negotiator from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, arrived on scene at the request of the Westbrook Police Department. After attempting for a few minutes to engage Moulton in conversation, however, Deputy Thorpe concluded that Moulton had no interest in conversing with him, and that negotiations conducted by Officer Roche had the best chance of success. Officer Roche thereafter continued in his role as primary negotiator, and Moulton continued to respond with threats to himself and, alternately, threats against Roche and others, showing no willingness to end the confrontation.
Finally, in an effort to end the continuing stalemate, the Westbrook Police Department asked the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for an officer trained in the use of less-than-lethal ammunition. Sergeant Kerry Joyce of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene at approximately 3:07 a.m., some hour and a half into the negotiation period. He was first briefed by Officer Pulsoni. After loading a shotgun with beanbag rounds, and after receiving further briefings from Deputy Thorpe and Sergeant McCaffrey, Joyce approached the semicircle of police officers confronting Moulton. Upon seeing Joyce with the shotgun, Moulton immediately stated that he knew the weapon was loaded with beanbag rounds. Sergeant Joyce thereafter took time to fully assess the situation and to allow Moulton to become accustomed to his presence. He observed the ongoing negotiations for 20 to 25 minutes. He saw Moulton threaten imminent suicide by placing the knife with both hands at his own neck. He saw Moulton make abrupt one or two step movements toward Officer Roche, followed by commands from Roche and others to “stop,” to which Moulton complied. He observed Moulton become upset when an officer changed his position in the semicircle. He saw that Moulton was becoming increasingly agitated, looking around as if formulating a plan of action. He satisfied himself that Moulton posed an imminent threat to Moulton himself, to Officer Roche and to the other police officers present. At a point when Moulton turned facing Joyce, Sergeant Joyce took the opportunity presented, raised the shotgun from its former low rest position and intentionally discharged a single beanbag round at Moulton’s midsection. Although knocking Moulton slightly backward, the impact did not have its anticipated effect. Moulton ignored the impact, making a brushing motion with his hand across his stomach and did not drop the knife. Sergeant Joyce immediately discharged three more beanbag rounds on quick succession. This time the resulting impacts did not even knock Moulton off balance.
Following the impact of the fourth beanbag round, Moulton screamed an obscenity and then charged at Officer Roche with the blade of the knife directed at Officer Roche. There were eight officers in the immediate vicinity as Moulton charged at Roche. Three, Sergeant McCaffrey and Officers Roche and Hanlon, fired their service weapons at Moulton. Moulton was but a few feet from Roche when the officers fired their weapons. Moulton, having been struck by at least two of the rounds discharged by the three officers, fell to the ground on his back within three feet of Officer Roche. Officers rushed Moulton and recovered the knife from where Moulton had dropped it close by. Immediate first aid was rendered to Moulton by emergency medical personnel who were standing by in the vicinity. Moulton was taken by ambulance to the
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office charged Thomas Moulton with criminal offenses as a result of the incident. Six detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene of the shooting in Westbrook to conduct the investigation. They were assisted in the investigation by detectives from the State Police, as well as personnel from the State Police Crime Laboratory. The Westbrook Police Department cooperated fully with the investigation and conducted its own departmental review of the incident.
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