AG Finds That October Use Of Deadly Force By South Portland And Portland Police Was Legally Justifie

November 30, 2006

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that a South Portland police officer, Steven Connors, and a Portland police sergeant, Robert Doherty, were legally justified when they shot and wounded Terrel Guy Dubois, 22, during the evening of October 11, 2006, in South Portland. Also wounded in the encounter was Officer Connors, who was shot four times by Dubois. 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.

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. (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 has determined, based on the investigation conducted by his Office and the application of controlling Maine law, that Officer Connors and Sergeant Doherty actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was being used against them by Dubois and that the use of deadly force on their part was necessary to protect themselves and each other. Therefore, both requirements of the law having been met, the use of deadly force by Officer Connors and Sergeant Doherty was legally justified.

The Attorney General's investigation revealed the following:

The Portland Police Department was conducting an investigation that focused on locating and arresting Terrel Dubois, who was wanted on a no-bail arrest warrant charging kidnapping, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, assault, and terrorizing. Dubois discovered that he was being sought by the police. During the afternoon of October 11, 2006, a man identifying himself as Dubois telephoned the Portland Police Department and, in a recorded call, told a dispatcher that he was aware that he was being sought by the police, that he was leaving Maine to go to Virginia, and that he would kill any police officer who attempted to arrest him.

In the early evening of October 11, Portland Police learned that a gold-colored Saturn automobile possibly being used by Dubois was located on Elm Street in South Portland. The Portland Police informed Officer Steven Connors of the South Portland Police Department of this information. Connors requested assistance from the Portland Police in attempting to locate Dubois in South Portland. Officer Mary Sauschuck, and later Sergeant Doherty and Officer Kevin Haley, all members of the Portland Police Department, joined Connors.[1]

Less than an hour later, Officers Connors and Sauschuck located a gold Saturn at an apartment complex at 204 Elm Street in South Portland and they began a surveillance of the vehicle at that time. Those two officers observed a man generally matching Dubois' description walking two dogs near the residence. Later, they observed the same man placing items into the vehicle and then going into one of the apartments. While the officers suspected the man was Dubois, they were not certain at that time. Shortly thereafter, the two officers were joined by Sergeant Doherty and Officer Haley. The officers decided to check the common area of the apartment building at 204 Elm Street, which housed several units including Apartment #1 on the below-ground level.

As the officers walked by the windows of what was later determined to be Apartment #1, one of the officers observed a man generally matching Dubois' description inside the apartment. Sergeant Doherty heard a man and a woman talking inside the apartment. A tenant of one of the upstairs apartments was shown a photograph of Dubois and recognized the person in the photograph as a man he had seen on occasion going into Apartment # 1.

Sergeant Doherty decided to call a telephone number believed by police to belong to Dubois, in the hope that the ring tone could be heard from inside Apartment # 1. Upon dialing the number, a ring tone was not heard from inside Apartment # 1. A man answered the call, however, and when Sergeant Doherty asked for "Tony," the man said his name was "Taz" and that the caller had the wrong number.

Suspecting that Dubois could be inside Apartment # 1, the officers decided to knock on the door of the unit and speak with the occupants to determine if Dubois was, in fact, inside. Officer Connors and Sergeant Doherty went to the door of Apartment #1 and Officer Connors knocked. The door was answered by a young woman who identified herself as the sister of the tenant of the apartment. Officer Connors displayed his badge and identified himself and Sergeant Doherty as police officers.[2] Neither officer saw anyone else in the apartment at that time.

Officer Connors asked for permission to enter the apartment to speak with the man in the apartment. The woman explained that the apartment belonged to her sister and she did not feel comfortable allowing the officers to enter. She also said she was alone in the apartment, a statement the officers disbelieved based on having just minutes before overheard talking between a man and a woman, as well as one of the officers having seen a man in the apartment through a window.

Officer Connors asked the woman for identification. Leaving the apartment door open, the woman walked to the rear of the living room and into the bathroom to retrieve her purse. According to the woman, Dubois was standing in an adjacent room and asked her "who's there?" The woman said she told Dubois that it was "the cops" and Dubois told her not to let them in.

While standing at the rear of the living room and in view of the officers, the woman searched her purse for her identification. At this time, Dubois, while conversing with the woman, entered the rear of the living room and into the officers' view. Officer Connors attempted to speak directly to Dubois, but Dubois ignored him and continued to converse with the woman.

Dubois disappeared from view into another room and the woman then returned to the apartment doorway with proof of her identification. Officer Connors asked her if the man was "Terrel." The woman replied that she knew the man as "Taz."

Having concluded that the man was Dubois, the officers began to call out Dubois' name in an effort to persuade him to come back into the living room. The officers cautioned the woman that she could be arrested and charged with harboring a fugitive, and that she should allow them to enter the apartment to talk with Dubois and handle the situation. According to the officers, the woman became concerned that she could be in trouble, stepped away from the front door and indicated to the officers that it was okay to enter.

The two officers continued calling to Dubois, urging him to come out and talk with them. Dubois ignored the requests other than to state "you need a warrant." As the officers entered the apartment, Dubois reappeared at the rear of the living room and again conversed with the woman. As Officer Connors moved toward Dubois, Dubois retreated into an adjacent room. Officer Connors followed Dubois into the room and Dubois attempted to close the door. Officer Connors attempted to block the door from closing. Immediately thereafter, while within less than five feet from Officer Connors, Dubois began firing at Connors with a small handgun, later identified as a Taurus .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol.

As Officer Connors, struck by Dubois' gunfire, began to collapse to the floor, he drew his service weapon and returned fire at Dubois who, at that time, was bending over. At about the same time, Sergeant Doherty drew his weapon and fired at Dubois. Dubois, struck by the officers' gunfire, collapsed and ceased firing.

This investigation has determined that Officer Connors was struck by four of the five rounds fired by Dubois. He suffered a non-penetrating head wound, as well as bullet wounds to the chest, shoulder, and hand. Dubois was struck by three of the officers' rounds in the left thigh and buttocks. Officer Connors expended eight rounds as he was collapsing and firing back, and Officer Doherty fired one round. Officer Connors and Dubois were rendered first aid at the scene and were immediately transported to the Maine Medical Center in Portland where they both underwent surgery for the gunshot wounds.

Detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene of the shooting in South Portland to conduct this investigation. They were assisted in the investigation by the Maine State Police, the South Portland and Portland Police Departments, and, later, the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory. The South Portland and Portland Police Departments cooperated fully with the investigation and are conducting their own internal departmental reviews of the incident.

[1] All four officers were in plainclothes. Officers Sauschuck and Haley bore badges that hung from neck chains, Officer Doherty wore a badge on his belt, and Officer Connors carried a badge in his pocket.

[2] When the police knocked at the door, the woman was on the telephone with an out-of-state friend. The friend has been interviewed as part of this investigation. According to that interview, the friend remained on the phone while the woman answered the door and heard a man identifying himself as "the police." The friend also reported that the woman ended the phone call seconds later by telling her "it's the police," and hanging up.