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AG Finds That Officers Involved Brunswick Shooting Were Legally Justified
December 12, 2005
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that a Sagadahoc County deputy sheriff, Chad Carleton, and a Brunswick police officer, Paul Hansen, were legally justified when they shot and killed Kim D. Niedermann, 58, of Cushing, the evening of November 17, 2005, at Cook's Corner in Brunswick.
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 in the performance of the officer's 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, both Deputy Carleton and Officer Hansen actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force had been and was being used by Niedermann against them, and that citizens in the immediate vicinity were imminently threatened with death or serious bodily injury by the actions of Niedermann. Further, based on the investigation and legal analysis, Attorney General Rowe determined that both Deputy Carleton and Officer Hansen actually and reasonably believed that deadly force on their part was necessary to protect themselves and to counter the imminent threat against others.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:
On November 17, 2005, at about 5:30 p.m., an armed robbery occurred at a pharmacy in Waldoboro in which significant amounts of narcotics were stolen. The assailant, later identified as Kim D. Niedermann, a convicted felon, wore a mask and brandished a handgun. He was observed by a citizen leaving the area in a purple PT Cruiser. A police broadcast was issued.
First Vehicle Pursuit
At about 6:30 p.m., a uniformed Wiscasset police officer on patrol in a marked police vehicle spotted the purple PT Cruiser traveling south on Route 1. The officer stopped the vehicle and ordered the driver to show his hands. Instead, the driver, later identified as Niedermann, fled in the vehicle. The officer ran back to his cruiser and gave chase. The chase proceeded south along Route 1 and reached speeds of 100 m.p.h. Deputy Sheriff Chad Carleton of Sagadahoc County deployed spike mats on Route 1 in Woolwich. The Niedermann vehicle drove over the spikes, deflating a front tire. This resulted in a significant reduction in the vehicle's speed.
Shots Fired in Bath
Niedermann exited Route 1 in Bath and drove his vehicle into a shopping plaza, which was heavily occupied by patrons. By that time, Deputy Carleton, as well as a Bath police sergeant and a second patrol deputy, had joined the pursuit. During a continuing effort to elude the officers, Niedermann discharged a handgun three separate times at the officers. Three rounds struck Carleton's cruiser, one round struck the second deputy's cruiser, and another round struck the Bath officer's cruiser. On one of these occasions, Niedermann got out of his car and fired. None of the incidents resulted in the officers returning fire because they concluded that innocent patrons in the shopping plaza would be in peril.
Carjacking and Second Vehicle Pursuit
Niedermann abandoned the disabled PT Cruiser after confronting a woman driving a Subaru in the plaza parking lot and stealing her car. Niedermann ordered the woman from the vehicle at gunpoint and transferred items from the PT Cruiser to the Subaru, including firearms, ammunition, the stolen narcotics, and personal items. Niedermann then fled the shopping plaza in the Subaru, again in a southerly direction on Route 1. The officers gave chase. As Niedermann approached the Cook's Corner exit in Brunswick, a Brunswick police lieutenant deployed spike mats. The Subaru drove over the spikes, which resulted in the deflation of both front tires. The Subaru continued on to the Cook's Corner exit, operating on flat tires and then rims as the tires shredded. The vehicle drove into the parking lot of a convenience store in a small plaza at Cook's Corner and came to a stop between two gas pump islands. In addition to the convenience store, two other businesses were open and there were patrons in the plaza, as well as patrons with three vehicles at the gas pumps.
Deputy Carleton, who had assumed the lead pursuit position, brought his cruiser to a stop just inside the entrance to the parking lot of the convenience store and got out of the vehicle. In the meantime, Officer Paul Hansen of the Brunswick Police Department had arrived at the location and taken a position on foot next to the parking lot. Niedermann got out of the Subaru armed with a handgun, ignored commands by Deputy Carleton to drop the weapon, and started shooting the handgun -- later identified as a .45 semi-automatic pistol -- at the officers. Niedermann was standing between the Subaru and another vehicle at the gas pumps. Deputy Carleton immediately returned fire with a shotgun but there was no visible effect on Niedermann. Carleton was struck in the hip by one of the rounds fired by Niedermann after the bullet struck and split a pepper spray canister on his duty belt. Carleton abandoned the shotgun and drew his service weapon while getting closer to Niedermann. He fired two rounds at Niedermann. At the same time, Officer Hansen, armed with his service weapon, fired four rounds at Niedermann. Deputy Carleton was 54 feet from Niedermann, and the distance between Officer Hansen and Niedermann was 112 feet. Both service weapons were .40 caliber pistols. Niedermann was struck twice -- once in the abdomen and once in the neck -- and killed. Deputy Carleton's injury was superficial, a result of the round's impact being greatly diminished when it struck the canister on his belt. It was later determined that Niedermann fired at least six rounds at the officers. It was also determined that Niedermann had in his possession four firearms, seven knives, a stun gun, over 300 rounds of ammunition for the firearms, and three handcuff keys -- two on a key ring and one pinned to the inside of his shirt.
Four detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene of the shooting to conduct the investigation. They were assisted by detectives from the State Police and the Brunswick Police Department, as well as forensic specialists from the State Police. In addition to several police officers, at least 16 citizens witnessed the exchange of gunfire between Niedermann and the two officers. Both the Sagadahoc County Sheriff's Office and the Brunswick Police Department cooperated fully with the investigation. Both agencies are conducting their own departmental reviews of the incident.
Charles Dow, Director, Communications & Legislative Affairs, 207-626-8577