AG Finds Trooper's Use Of Deadly Force In Jay Legally Justified

July 13, 2006

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that a State Police officer, Trooper Randall Keaten, was legally justified when, while acting in the performance of his public duty, he shot and wounded William C. Burhoe, age 50, the night of June 6, 2006, outside Burhoe's home on the Macomber Hill Road in Jay.

The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by Trooper Keaten 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 deadly force under Maine law.)

Attorney General Rowe determined that, based on the investigation and legal analysis conducted by his office, Trooper Keaten actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was being used by Burhoe against him, and that others in the immediate vicinity were imminently threatened with death or serious bodily injury by the actions of Burhoe. Further, based on the investigation and legal analysis, Attorney General Rowe determined that Trooper Keaten actually and reasonably believed that deadly force on his part was necessary to protect himself and to counter the imminent threat against others.

The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:

On Tuesday, June 6, 2006, at 8:53 P.M., the Franklin County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call from a man who reported that he had been assaulted and later shot at by his father, William Burhoe, on the Macomber Hill Road in Jay. The son reported that he had left the residence on foot after being assaulted by Burhoe and that he was down the road about a quarter mile from the residence when Burhoe discharged a rifle. The son was not certain at that point if his father had actually fired the rifle at him. He told the 911 dispatcher, however, that Burhoe was in a pickup truck with a rifle looking for him. Officers from the Jay Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office responded to the call. A deputy spotted the pickup truck in the yard of Burhoe's residence on the Macomber Hill Road. The deputy then saw a person standing behind the Burhoe residence carrying something. Officers blocked the roadways near the residence on both the Macomber Hill Road and an intersecting road. Other officers, including Trooper Keaten, arrived shortly thereafter.

A second trooper, Scott Nichols, illuminated the area behind the Burhoe residence. Officers saw a man, later identified as William Burhoe, standing behind the Burhoe residence with a rifle. Trooper Nichols issued repeated commands to Burhoe to relinquish the gun. Burhoe refused to put down the gun, verbally challenged the officers as to their authority, and shouted obscenities at them.

During the exchange between Trooper Nichols and Burhoe, a motorist drove down the intersecting Farrington Road to a point near the driveway of Burhoe's residence. Two deputies and a Jay officer were near this area. The troopers, as well as Deputy Steve Charles, observed Burhoe raise the gun to his shoulder and aim it directly at Deputy Charles and the motorist. Deputy Charles succeeded in getting the uninvolved motorist out of the area.

In response to this threatening behavior by Burhoe, Trooper Keaten made his way to a corner of the Burhoe residence about 45 feet from where Burhoe continued to stand with the rifle. Trooper Keaten illuminated Burhoe with a flashlight and commanded Burhoe to drop his weapon. Burhoe responded by turning in the direction of Trooper Keaten and firing his rifle at him just as Trooper Keaten ducked behind the corner of the house. The round entered and exited the corner of the house where Trooper Keaten was standing. Debris and splinters struck Trooper Keaten. Trooper Keaten returned fire with one round from his service weapon, which struck Burhoe in the upper leg. Burhoe fell to the ground and yelled that he was "giving up."

Burhoe was administered medical aid at the scene and later taken to the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston for treatment. The District Attorney's Office in Franklin County has lodged criminal charges against him.

Six detectives from the Attorney General's Office 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.