Attorney General Report on Law Enforcement Officer’s Use of Deadly Force on October 27, 2007

January 11, 2008

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today, January 11, 2008, that he has determined that Gorham Police Officer Dean Hannon was legally justified when he fired his weapon at a vehicle occupied by Andy V. Luong, age 22, the night of October 27, 2007, on Route 25 near 475 Ossipee Trail Road in Gorham.

The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by Officer Hannon 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, Officer Hannon actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened by Mr. Luong against him. Further, based on the investigation and legal analysis, Attorney General Rowe determined that Officer Hannon actually and reasonably believed that deadly force on his part was necessary to protect him from the imminent threat.

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

In the late evening hours of October 27, 2007, an armed confrontation, which included an exchange of gunfire, took place in the parking lot of the Howard’s Sports Center in Saco. Following the fatal shooting of Seiha Srey, Andy Luong and two other individuals involved in the confrontation escaped from the scene in a 2002 white Mercury Sable sedan, with Maine registration plate number 5535NZ. The Saco Police Department responded to citizen calls concerning the gunfight and alerted area law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for the escape vehicle. The Saco Police notifications included information that there were possibly three suspects, a potential hostage and that the vehicle’s occupants were armed with an assault rifle and were considered high-threat suspects.

At approximately 11:00 P.M. on October 27, 2007, Buxton Police Officer Kimberly Emery, in response to the Saco Police broadcast, was situated in her marked police vehicle surveilling the area of Route 112 for automobile traffic traveling from Saco into her jurisdiction. Emery observed the white Mercury Sable and advised her dispatcher. Emery requested assistance before attempting to affect a vehicle stop. Within minutes, Buxton Police Officer Christine LaBranche in her own marked police vehicle took up a position following Emery who was maintaining visual contact with the suspect Mercury. At or near the intersection of Routes 112 and 202 in Buxton, Emery activated the emergency lights of her vehicle and tried to initiate a traffic stop. The Mercury sedan continued on and accelerated through a red traffic light initiating what became a 14 mile police pursuit.

Shortly after the pursuit began, Gorham Police Officer Dean Hannon, while on duty, was at his home in Gorham changing his uniform as a result of a previous police action. Hannon heard police radio traffic advising that the Buxton Police were involved in a high speed chase along Route 112 traveling in the direction of Gorham. Officer Hannon contacted the Cumberland County Communications dispatcher, advised that he was available and asked whether on-duty Gorham Police Officer Sears Edwards wanted him to respond to assist in the pursuit. Hannon was advised to do so. Hannon was joined in a collective effort by Officer Edwards and another on-duty Gorham Police Officer, Theodore Hatch.

In an effort to intersect the pursuit, Officer Hannon traveled in his marked police vehicle along certain roadways he anticipated would allow him to converge with the pursuing officers. He learned from police radio communications that Officer Hatch had deployed a spike mat on Route 112 in the vicinity of the Finn Parker Road and Hannon then positioned himself further along Route 112 for the purpose of deploying a second spike mat.

Almost immediately, Officer Hannon encountered the suspect vehicle being pursued by other officers. According to Hannon, he positioned his own vehicle across the roadway leaving an access route for the suspect driver, who, upon encountering Hannon’s police vehicle, directed the Mercury within “inches” of the stationary cruiser.

Officer Hannon gave chase and became the lead police vehicle which made up a multi-cruiser pursuit. It was at this point, that Hannon stated that he learned via radio traffic that the occupant(s) of the Mercury were believed to be in the possession of a firearm. Hannon (as did other officers) observed the Mercury operate repetitively into oncoming traffic while traveling some 15 to 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, failing to stop as directed by the emergency vehicle lights and sirens.

As the pursuit continued, Officer Hannon utilized the spotlight of his cruiser to illuminate the interior of the Mercury. He stated that he could observe one individual (the driver) but could not be certain if there were others concealed within. The Mercury had incurred damage to both the front and rear tires on the driver’s side as a result of the spike mat deployment by Officer Hatch. When the pursuit entered Route 25 in Gorham, the total complement of officers involved at that point included Hannon, followed by Emery, LaBranche, York County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Sanborn, Buxton Police Officer Michael Grovo and Officer Hatch. Given the totality of the circumstance and the danger to the public safety, Officer Hannon chose to maneuver his vehicle forward of the suspect Mercury and to gain sufficient distance from where he could stop and deploy a second spike mat. Hannon was successful in passing the Mercury and, once in front, Hannon slowed to try to get the Mercury operator to slow down as well. The Mercury operator then attempted to pass Hannon. Hannon accelerated and, once an adequate distance forward of the Mercury, Hannon brought his vehicle to a stop along Route 25 (also known as the Ossipee Trail Road) at or about number 475 Ossipee Trail Road. At approximately 11:17 P.M., Hannon exited his vehicle and prepared to deploy a spike mat. The emergency lights of Hannon’s vehicle were operational as were the emergency lights and sirens of the police vehicles pursuing the Mercury.

The operator of the Mercury, now traveling on a fully deflated left rear tire and the rim on the front left, slowed and brought his vehicle to a stop some 139 feet from Officer Hannon’s position.

Officer Hannon stated that, due to Mercury’s headlights, he could not see any movement inside the Mercury. Hannon stated that he felt vulnerable to gunfire from the occupant(s) of the Mercury from his position behind his cruiser (as he was silhouetted by his cruiser’s flashing emergency lights). Hannon un-holstered his weapon, made his way around the portion of his police vehicle furthest from the Mercury and then began to quickly move in a southwesterly direction across Route 25 (to the left from Hannon’s perspective) to take cover behind a truck that was parked near the roadside. Hannon stated that, as he proceeded on foot across Route 25 with his handgun out, he heard the sound of what he believed to be a gunshot from a high powered rifle and observed barrel flash from inside the Mercury. Hannon stated that, while “completely exposed” to the occupant(s) of the Mercury at this point, he believed he was under fire and, being absent of any cover, feared for his safety.

Officer Hannon stated that he “crouched down” and discharged his .40 caliber Glock service weapon, what he believed to be one time at the Mercury. He then moved forward “a step or two” and fired what he believed to be a second round at the Mercury. Hannon continued on foot across Route 25 until he reached the roadside and took cover. (Although Hannon recalled firing two rounds, the investigation revealed that he actually discharged his service weapon a total of three times in the maneuver.)

During the minutes that followed, Officer Hannon and other officers made a tactical approach to the Mercury and found the sole occupant to be Andy V. Luong. It was obvious to those officers that Luong had suffered a traumatic injury, was blood-soaked and unconscious. Luong was holding a Kalashnikov style AK-47 7.62 mm assault rifle with the barrel pointed upwards and his hand along the trigger mechanism. Hannon, in the company of other officers, used a metal baton to smash out the driver’s side window of the Mercury and Hannon disarmed Luong who offered no resistance and showed no sign of life.

Emergency medical personnel were called to the scene. Based on life sign evaluations, they concluded Luong was deceased.

Based on the investigation, which included an on-scene examination by the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner as well as an autopsy, it was determined that Mr. Luong died as the result of a single self-inflicted gunshot from the assault rifle into his mouth. The bullet exited the back of Mr. Luong’s head and shattered the left rear passenger window of the Mercury. It was also determined that the rounds fired by Officer Hannon did not strike Mr. Luong or the vehicle.

Detectives from the Attorney General’s Office went to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation. They were assisted by detectives and forensic specialists from the Maine State Police. The Gorham Police Department cooperated fully with the investigation.

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David Loughran, (207) 626-8577