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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force
April 13, 2013
In the early morning hours of December 22, 2012, State Police Trooper Paul Casey shot at Michael Callahan from outside Mr. Callahan’s home in Minot in an armed nighttime confrontation during which Mr. Callahan fired multiple rounds in the direction of Trooper Casey and other law enforcement officers. Neither Mr. Callahan nor any other person was injured during the six-hour standoff in which Mr. Callahan fired at least 90 rounds from at least three different weapons in his home.
As a result of a 911 call from a teenage girl reporting a domestic disturbance involving her father brandishing a firearm, State Police troopers and Androscoggin County deputy sheriffs responded to a residence on Verrill Road in Minot at about 10 p.m. on Friday, December 21, 2012. The residence was the home of Michael Callahan, age 44, and his family. The residence was a large two-level colonial style single family dwelling with a daylight basement and an attached two car garage. Surrounded by manicured lawns with no plants, rocks, trees or bushes within about 100 feet, the residence was situated on an approximate 12-acre lot about 450 feet from the main road. An initial investigation disclosed that Mr. Callahan’s wife and two children had left the home after Mr. Callahan, upset over the notion of the police coming to his home, loaded and displayed an AK-47 assault rifle with a scope while making statements indicating he wanted to die. The wife and children were followed outside the house by Mr. Callahan, who was still armed with the loaded rifle. Mr. Callahan made no attempt to stop them when they left the premises in the wife’s car.
The initial investigation also disclosed that Mr. Callahan’s brother and his brother’s wife, while not being fully aware of what was occurring at the residence, had gone to the home in response to a call from Mr. Callahan’s young son, and had been confronted by Mr. Callahan, who was still armed with the assault rifle. After answering the door, Mr. Callahan walked out of the residence and attempted to leave in his pickup truck while still armed with the AK-47. Mr. Callahan’s brother blocked Mr. Callahan from immediately leaving and attempted to persuade him to stay. Mr. Callahan fired the assault rifle in the direction of the brother and the brother’s wife and retreated into his residence.
The brother’s wife fled the residence and called 911 requesting police assistance. The brother attempted to gain entry to the residence in hopes of calming Mr. Callahan but was unable to get into the house. The brother, slightly injured and bleeding from his attempts to get into the house, left the residence after hearing several gunshots from inside. He went to a neighbor’s home where he announced that Mr. Callahan was dead. The neighbor accompanied the brother back to the Callahan residence where the brother attempted again to break open a door to the home. The pair concluded, after hearing the discharge of about a dozen gunshots from inside the residence, that Mr. Callahan was not dead. As the neighbor fled the residence and ran down the driveway, he heard more gunshots coming from inside the residence. At the end of the driveway, the neighbor encountered one of the responding police officers who instructed him to return to his residence.
Shortly thereafter, the brother gained entry into the house. From the base of a staircase, he observed Mr. Callahan at the top of the staircase on the second floor. While demanding that the brother leave the residence, Mr. Callahan fired the AK-47 rifle, a Thompson .45 caliber machine gun, and a .40 caliber pistol down the stairwell in the direction of his brother. While firing additional rounds from the second floor of the house through the ceiling of the kitchen, Mr. Callahan told his brother that he knew police officers were in the house because he could see their shadows. In fact, there were no police officers or other persons in the house at that time. Fearing for his safety, the brother left the residence and went to the home of a neighbor.
Responding officers from the State Police and the Sheriff’s Office arrived at the residence knowing at that point that only Mr. Callahan remained in the residence. They heard multiple gunshots from inside the home as they established a perimeter around the residence. Some of these officers reported hearing gunshot rounds striking the trees and the ground near their locations. It was against this backdrop that the State Police Tactical Team was summoned. One member of the team was Trooper Paul Casey. Trooper Casey and other team members were assigned to replace the initial responding troopers and deputy sheriffs who had taken up positions around the perimeter of the residence. Responding at about the same time were members of the State Police Crisis Negotiation Team.
Over the course of approximately two hours, numerous attempts were made by members of the crisis negotiation team to establish contact with Mr. Callahan. None of the 48 telephone calls made to the residence was answered. At the same time, several demands over a loud speaker for Mr. Callahan to come out of the residence unarmed went unheeded, despite clear evidence that Mr. Callahan heard the demands. Instead, during this period of time, Mr. Callahan continued to shoot from his residence in the direction of officers, including Trooper Casey. Many of these rounds struck trees or limbs near the officers. Later investigation confirmed that some of the rounds fired from the house by Mr. Callahan indeed struck trees and limbs near some of the troopers, including a bullet strike from the AK-47 scoped rifle in a tree about 30 feet from where one trooper was situated. Evidence of .45 caliber machine gunfire was later collected approximately 25 yards from Trooper Casey’s position.
Establishing a line of sight by the sound of gunshots coming from the house, Trooper Casey observed the silhouette of who he believed to be Mr. Callahan firing from inside the residence through a window in the daylight basement. Trooper Casey aimed and fired several rounds at the window. Later investigation determined that Trooper Casey was situated about 165 feet from the residence, and that he fired 16 rounds in the direction of Mr. Callahan. While none of the rounds struck Mr. Callahan, within minutes of the rounds being fired Mr. Callahan walked out of the residence unarmed and was taken into custody without further incident. Mr. Callahan was later charged by the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office with several crimes, including domestic violence criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct with a firearm. Over 50 firearms, some fully loaded, were seized from the residence, including 22 handguns, 26 rifles, and six shotguns. Also found in the residence were easily accessible stores of ammunition and a pair of night goggles.
Detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to the scene to conduct an investigation. They were assisted by members of the State Police, the Maine Warden Service, and the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office.
Analysis and Conclusion
The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating any use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer while acting in the performance of the officer's duties, whether or not that act actually causes death or any injury at all. The sole purpose of the Attorney General’s investigation is to determine whether self-defense or the defense of others, as defined by law, is reasonably generated by the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution. The review does not include whether there could be any civil liability, whether any administrative action is warranted, or whether the use of deadly force could have been averted.
Under Maine law, for any person to be justified in using deadly force for self-defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the person must reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or against someone else, and, second, the person must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.
Attorney General Janet T. Mills has concluded that at the time Trooper Casey fired shots in the direction of Mr. Callahan, it was reasonable for Trooper Casey to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against himself and other officers. In fact, Mr. Callahan had already fired dozens of rounds in the direction of the police from a high powered rifle and a machine gun, and the officers had good reason to fear for their safety. In addition, it was reasonable for Trooper Casey to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself and other officers from the imminent threat of deadly force posed against them by Mr. Callahan’s actions. This conclusion is based on an extensive scene investigation, interviews with numerous individuals, and all other evidence made available from any source.