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Trooper's Use Of Deadly Force In New Gloucester Was Legally Justified
August 23, 2004
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that a State Police officer, Sergeant Michael Edes, was legally justified when, while acting in the performance of his public duty, he discharged one round from his service weapon at Robert Bean, age 25, of Gray in the early morning of May 21, 2004, on Route 26 in New Gloucester, wounding Bean. The Attorney General also said that Sergeant Edes was legally justified when, immediately prior, he terminated a lengthy pursuit by using his cruiser to ram Bean's vehicle.
The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by Sergeant Edes 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.
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. (Maine law defines deadly force as physical force that a person uses with the intent of causing, or which the person knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily injury. With respect to a firearm, intentionally or recklessly discharging a firearm in the direction of another person or at a moving vehicle is also deadly force under Maine law.) Attorney General Rowe determined that, based on the investigation and legal analysis conducted by his office, Sergeant Edes actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened by Bean against himself and others when he shot Bean — namely, other law enforcement officers at the scene, as well as civilian motorists who were approaching the scene from the north. The same was determined with respect to Sergeant Edes' earlier use of deadly force against Bean when he intentionally used his cruiser to ram Bean's vehicle in order to stop Bean.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:
On May 21, 2004, at about 1:10 a.m., Officer Harry Sims of the South Paris Police Department on patrol in his marked cruiser observed a white vehicle on Main Street in South Paris. It was later determined that the vehicle was operated by Robert Bean. The vehicle caught the attention of Officer Sims because it displayed working, but very dim, tail lights and Montana tags. The vehicle stopped at a traffic light in a lane of travel for left-turning traffic. However, when the light turned green, the vehicle turned abruptly to the right into a parking lot of a closed business and stopped. A check made by Officer Sims on the status of the Montana tags with the dispatcher revealed that they had expired in 1999. The vehicle then left the parking lot and started south on Route 26 towards Oxford. Officer Sims notified officers working in Oxford and Norway of the vehicle's location, its expired tags, and its suspicious movements.
Shortly after, Officer Shane White of the Norway Police Department observed the vehicle on Route 26 traveling south and attempted to stop it by activating his cruiser's emergency lights. Bean drove his vehicle to the right shoulder of the road, stopped momentarily, and then resumed his travel south on Route 26 until he reached a traffic light. Bean stopped his vehicle at the light which was red. He then proceeded through the red light into the intersection and again stopped, rolling down the driver's side window and motioning for Officer White to pass him. Officer White, using the cruiser's public address system, instructed Bean to pull his vehicle over to the side of the road and stop. At this point, Bean brandished a rifle by holding it up inside the vehicle, above the seat and in full view of Officer White, who had activated a spotlight and was illuminating the inside of Bean's vehicle. Officer White's initial thought was that the weapon was a deer rifle.
Bean drove off and continued south on Route 26 with Officer White in pursuit. As the pursuit progressed, Bean generally drove no faster than around 60 m.p.h. Through dispatch, Officer White notified other officers in the area that he was in pursuit of the vehicle and that the operator had brandished a rifle. At three later points in time White observed Bean brandish the rifle. Officer White kept a safe distance from Bean, and, through dispatch, notified other officers each time Bean brandished the weapon. Officer White, feeling that he was in imminent danger, requested additional police assistance and, eventually, officers from several departments responded, including the Oxford Police Department, the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office, the State Police, and the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. Officer White's call for assistance resulted in a timely response by Officer Ricky Jack of the Oxford Police Department, who took up a position behind Officer White's cruiser as the pursuit continued south on Route 26.
Bean continued to ignore the signals to stop, and occasionally brandished the rifle by displaying it inside the vehicle in a fashion that could be observed by Officer White. At the point where Route 26 intersects with Route 122 in Poland, Sergeant James Jacques of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office had deployed a spike mat in the southbound lane of travel on Route 26. Bean drove over the mat and continued south. At this point, Officer White relinquished the lead position in the pursuit to a State Police cruiser operated by Trooper Michael Zabarsky. The pursuit had slowed to about 35 m.p.h., apparently as a result of at least one tire on the Bean vehicle being punctured by a spike. Shortly thereafter, Trooper Zabarsky relinquished the lead position to Sergeant Michael Edes of the State Police. In the meantime, a second spike mat had been deployed by Officer Alfred Winslow of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office on Route 26 where it intersects with the Snow Hill Road in New Gloucester. Bean, however, managed to avoid contact with the mat as he traveled past the location by driving into the oncoming lane.
When Sergeant Edes assumed the lead position in the pursuit, Bean's vehicle had slowed considerably, but Bean still refused to stop. Sergeant Edes observed sparks coming from the wheel area of Bean's vehicle, indicating to him that one or more of the tires on Bean's vehicle had deflated as a result of being punctured by spikes from the mat previously deployed at the intersection of Routes 26 and 122. At this point, the pursuit of Bean had gone on for about 25 minutes and transversed nearly 20 miles and was approaching more populated and built-up areas of New Gloucester and Gray. Sergeant Edes notified the other police units of his intention, when the appropriate opportunity presented itself, to strike the rear of Bean's vehicle in such a way as to force Bean's vehicle off the roadway and bring it to a stop.
From his position directly behind the Bean vehicle, Sergeant Edes observed what he believed was the rifle resting on top of the seat across the headrest. As he drove closer to Bean's vehicle, Bean stuck the rifle out the driver's side window with his right hand and pointed it back at him. This caused Sergeant Edes to take immediate evasive action by slowing and moving over to the right because he thought that Bean was going to discharge the rifle at him. Sergeant Edes then activated a spotlight, positioning its beam on the rearview mirror of Bean's vehicle to prevent Bean from seeing behind him. At this point, he observed that Bean had brought the rifle back inside the vehicle and was pointing it at his own head. As the pursuit approached a straight portion of roadway where cruisers were stationary on the side of the road at the intersection of the Snow Hill Road, the Bean vehicle veered to the left to avoid the spike mats deployed by Deputy Winslow. Observing Bean drop the rifle to the seat as he drove onto the oncoming lane, Sergeant Edes accelerated his cruiser and, as Bean was maneuvering his vehicle back to the right to resume his travel on the eastbound lane, intentionally struck the rear of Bean's vehicle, causing it to slide sideways and off the right side of the roadway, and slowly proceed down a grassy strip until it ultimately became disabled and stopped. The speed of the Bean vehicle at the time of the impact was 15-20 m.p.h.
Before the vehicle came to a stop, Bean opened the driver's door and got out of the vehicle with the rifle in hand, turned, and pointed the rifle at Sergeant Edes, who was still in his cruiser some 10 to 20 yards away. Sergeant Edes, unable momentarily to open the door of his cruiser, drew his service weapon. While Sergeant Edes continued to try to open the door of his cruiser, Bean abruptly dropped his aim, turned to his right, and started walking along Route 26. After repeatedly kicking the door to open it, Sergeant Edes finally managed to exit his cruiser. Several other officers had arrived on scene in the meantime and they, along with Sergeant Edes, started walking toward Bean, all the time commanding him to drop the weapon. Bean turned to face Sergeant Edes and the other officers, and proceeded to walk backwards away from them in the northbound travel lane. During this brief procession, Bean, who had his left hand toward the top of the stock and his right hand on the trigger, alternately placed the barrel of the rifle to his head and in his mouth. The officers, including Sergeant Edes, issued repeated commands for Bean to drop the gun and to get down on the ground.
Ignoring the commands to drop the weapon and get down on the ground, Bean walked for approximately 15 yards before he stopped momentarily in the middle of the northbound travel lane while keeping the rifle pointed to his head. At this point, the officers observed two civilian vehicles approaching the scene from behind Bean. As the vehicles came closer to the scene, they slowed but, instead of stopping, they kept driving closer and closer towards Bean and the officers. Bean was observed by the officers to take an interest in the two vehicles; he stopped and looked over his shoulder at the two vehicles. All the officers in the immediate vicinity feared that if Bean got closer to the vehicles, he would either shoot someone in the vehicles or commandeer one of the vehicles. Continuous commands from multiple officers for Bean to drop the gun and get down went unheeded. The commands at this point included telling Bean that he would be shot if he did not stop and drop the weapon.
Then Bean, while looking at the officers, started to move the rifle away from his head in such a manner that Sergeant Edes believed Bean was intending thereby to point the barrel directly at him. In response to Bean's actions, Sergeant Edes discharged one round at Bean at a distance of about 20 feet. The round struck Bean, who immediately dropped the rifle and fell to the roadway.
Ultimately, it was determined that the weapon possessed by Bean was, in fact, a pellet rifle.
Five detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation. They were assisted in the investigation by detectives and forensic specialists from the State Police. The State Police cooperated fully with the investigation, and conducted its own review of the incident.
CHARLES DOW, DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS & LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, 207-626-8577