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Use of Deadly Force By Portland Police Against Albert Kittrell Legally Justified
July 10, 2008
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that a Portland police officer, Nicholas Goodman, was legally justified when he shot and killed Albert W. Kittrell, 48, in a moving vehicle on St. John Street in Portland on the night of May 3, 2008.
The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by Officer Goodman 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 duties.
Under Maine law, for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force for purposes of self-protection or the protection of others, two requirements must be met. First, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that unlawful deadly force is being used or is imminently threatened against the officer or others. Second, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that the officer's use of deadly force is necessary to meet or counter that use or 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.)
Based on his office's investigation and legal analysis, Attorney General Rowe determined that Officer Goodman actually and reasonably believed that Albert Kittrell was using unlawful deadly force against him and deadly force on the officer’s part was necessary to protect himself from death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, both requirements of law having been met, the use of deadly force by Officer Goodman was legally justified.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:
During the late evening of May 3, 2008, Portland police officer Nicholas Goodman was engaged in uniform patrol activities operating a marked police vehicle. At 9:42 P.M., Goodman stopped a Ford Explorer on St. John Street after observing suspected vehicle violations. The Ford Explorer was being operated by a man later determined to be Albert W. Kittrell, age 48, of Westbrook. As is routine, a second Portland police officer arrived soon after at the location of the vehicle stop. The officer, James Davison, was likewise in uniform and operating a marked police cruiser.
Upon approaching the stopped vehicle, Officer Goodman observed the only occupant to be the driver, a man he recognized as either Albert Kittrell or Kittrell’s brother. Goodman asked the driver if he was in fact Albert Kittrell or the brother. The driver, according to Goodman, was restless and avoided eye contact. He was holding a cellular telephone with an illuminated screen, indicating to Officer Goodman that Kittrell was connected or attempting to connect to a call. Kittrell’s answers to Officer Goodman’s questions were “choppy” and unresponsive, and Kittrell focused more at that point on attempting to persuade Officer Goodman to allow him to drive the vehicle to a nearby residence where a friend who in fact owned the vehicle could provide the operator and vehicle documentation requested by Officer Goodman.
The investigation disclosed that as Officer Goodman initiated the traffic stop, Kittrell used the cellular phone in his possession to contact his former girlfriend, who lived nearby in Portland and who also was the owner of the Ford Explorer. Kittrell had asked the vehicle owner if there was some defect with her vehicle that would attract the attention of the police. This telephone conversation between Kittrell and the vehicle owner continued as Kittrell responded to Officer Goodman’s signal to stop and the vehicle owner overheard some of the interaction between Officer Goodman and Kittrell through the open cellular connection. For example, the vehicle owner heard Albert Kittrell identify himself to the police officer as “Joseph” Kittrell, and chastised him for doing so.
Officer Goodman later told an investigator that Kittrell’s behavior and the information provided to him by Kittrell resulted in his becoming increasingly suspicious of him. For example, Goodman recalled that after identifying himself as “Joseph” Kittrell, Kittrell experienced difficulty reciting a date of birth. As Officer Goodman returned to his cruiser to check the information provided to him by Kittrell, Officer Davison arrived. At the same time, the vehicle owner left her home on foot and started walking the few blocks to the location Kittrell had described to her during their telephone conversation. A short time later she would observe Officer Goodman hanging from the side of the vehicle, hear gunshots, and observe Officer Goodman falling to the pavement as he lost his hold on the moving vehicle.
Officer Goodman learned that Albert Kittrell was a habitual offender who was subject to bail conditions, having been recently arrested for operating after suspension. The bail conditions included not operating a vehicle. Through further investigation, Officer Goodman established probable cause that the driver of the vehicle was in fact Albert Kittrell, not “Joseph.” This determination was partly based on significantly different physical descriptions that Goodman obtained of Albert and Joseph Kittrell. Officer Goodman informed Officer Davison that it was his intention to arrest Kittrell.
Officer Davison first stood at the right rear of the Kittrell vehicle as Officer Goodman walked to the driver’s door. Davison then moved forward to the front passenger door of the vehicle. Goodman told an investigator later that he recalled Kittrell complying with his instruction to turn off the engine of the vehicle. Goodman confronted Kittrell with Kittrell’s use of a false identity and Goodman’s belief that he was in fact Albert Kittrell, a habitual offender subject to bail conditions that included not operating a vehicle. Goodman told Kittrell he was under arrest and ordered him from the vehicle. Kittrell asked the officer to “give him a break” and when the officer declined, Kittrell remarked that his civil rights were being violated. Officer Goodman told Kittrell again to get out of the vehicle – that he was being arrested. Officer Goodman stepped back from the vehicle anticipating that Kittrell would comply.
Instead of opening the door of the vehicle, however, Kittrell reached for the ignition of the vehicle. Officer Goodman rapidly stepped back to the driver’s door and, with his left hand, reached through the open window for the ignition switch on the steering column. Simultaneously, Goodman attempted but failed to open the driver’s door with his right hand. Goodman then reached into the vehicle with both hands in an effort to prevent Kittrell from activating the ignition. Independently, Officer Davison observed what he believed to be Kittrell’s intended flight. He opened the front passenger door, and hurled himself into the vehicle in an effort to stop Kittrell. These actions by Officers Goodman and Davison were witnessed by a nearby resident who had also earlier observed the initial interaction between Officer Goodman and Kittrell.
Kittrell started the engine and engaged the gear shift lever located on the steering column. Upon hearing the engine start, Officer Goodman tried to reach the shift lever to put it back in the “park” position, but he was unable to do so. For his part, Officer Davison, inside the vehicle at this point, told an investigator that he concentrated all his efforts on stopping Kittrell from escaping. This included his attempts to disengage the shift lever from the “drive” position and to reach the brake pedal with his foot, actions that were thwarted by Kittrell. Officer Davison recalled repeatedly ordering Kittrell to stop.
Goodman told an investigator that his upper torso was positioned past the threshold of the driver’s door window inside the vehicle as the vehicle rapidly lurched forward, resulting in nearly 30 feet of acceleration marks left on the pavement by the right rear tire of the vehicle. Goodman recalled yelling at Kittrell to stop and hearing Davison voicing similar commands. At the same time, Goodman observed that Davison was inside the vehicle, and that Kittrell was grappling with Davison. According to Goodman, Kittrell also attempted to push him off the vehicle, which was by now was traveling at a rapid pace. The resident observing the interactions between Kittrell and the police observed the vehicle drive off with Goodman being dragged alongside.
Officer Goodman lost his footing as the vehicle sped off and felt his boots dragging on the pavement as he hung onto the vehicle, fearful that letting go would result in his death from the fall and/or being run over by the vehicle’s left rear tire. It was later determined that both of Goodman’s leather boots were scraped and gouged and his uniform trousers torn from being dragged along the pavement. As the speed of the vehicle increased, Goodman removed his .45 caliber service weapon from its holster, and shot Kittrell. At about the same moment, Goodman lost his hold on the vehicle and fell hard to the pavement face first. The investigation disclosed that Goodman fired his weapon three times, twice striking Kittrell in the left flank. After Kittrell was shot, Officer Davison was able to bring the vehicle to a stop. Within minutes, Kittrell was attended by emergency medical personnel and transported to the Maine Medical Center in Portland where he was initially treated and then pronounced dead. Officer Goodman was also treated at the hospital for injuries to his knees, hands, and face, all the result of being dragged as well as falling from the moving vehicle. Officer Davison was treated for pulled arm muscles.
The investigation disclosed that from the point Kittrell drove off with Officer Goodman hanging onto the vehicle and Officer Davison inside, the vehicle traveled about 280 feet before Kittrell was shot and Officer Goodman lost his hold on the vehicle. The vehicle traveled another 77 feet with Officer Davison inside before Davison was able to bring it to a stop. A span of 13 minutes elapsed from the time Officer Goodman first stopped the Kittrell vehicle to the time that Kittrell was shot.
The Portland Police Department cooperated fully with the Attorney General detectives who conducted the investigation, and provided assistance in processing the scene on St. John Street. An autopsy and forensic examination by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Kittrell died as a result of two gunshots to the left flank and that the manner of death was consistent with the accounts provided by officers and other witnesses as well as the physical evidence found at the scene.
*********** 1 The investigation determined that just prior to this renewed interaction between Officer Goodman and Kittrell, Kittrell had conversed with his former girlfriend (the vehicle owner) via cellular telephone and informed her that he had no intention of returning to jail, and that he was going to attempt to escape from the officers at the traffic stop.
NEWS RELEASE July 10, 2008 Jessica Maurer, Special Assistant Attorney General, (207) 626-8515