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Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by Androscoggin County Deputy Sheriff on May 24, 2013, in Minot
September 19, 2013
In the early afternoon of May 24, 2013, Androscoggin County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Sampson shot at Michael Callahan from outside Mr. Callahan’s vehicle. The incident took place on the Goodwin Road in Minot following a vehicle pursuit during which Mr. Callahan attempted to crash his vehicle into Deputy Sampson’s cruiser. Neither Mr. Callahan nor any other person was injured as a result of the incident.
On May 24, 2013, Michael Callahan, 44 years of age, was on bail conditions related to charges against him resulting from an incident the night of December 21-22, 2012, at Mr. Callahan’s residence in Minot during which Mr. Callahan allegedly threatened his wife and children and other family members with a firearm. The December incident included a six-hour standoff with police, during which time Mr. Callahan fired at least 90 rounds from three different weapons. The conditions of his bail in effect on May 24, 2013, prohibited him from being at the family residence on the Verrill Road in Minot, as well as having any contact with his wife or children.
In the early afternoon of May 24, a resident on the Verrill Road reported to Mr. Callahan’s estranged wife that she had seen Michael Callahan’s red Chevy Avalanche enter the driveway of the Callahan residence. Shortly after contacting Mr. Callahan’s wife, the caller contacted the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office with the same information. The caller reported hearing loud pounding sounds, and seeing Mr. Callahan drive away from the residence. Shortly after the call to the Sheriff’s Office, several other residents called and reported seeing black smoke coming from the Callahan residence. Mr. Callahan’s wife was at work in Mechanic Falls when she received the notification from the resident on the Verrill Road. Shortly after, she was notified that the Callahan residence in Minot was on fire. The wife left work and called the Sheriff’s Office from her mobile cellular phone and reported that she had heard from neighbors that Mr. Callahan had set fire to the Callahan residence in Minot. During the call, the wife reported that Mr. Callahan was in his vehicle behind her on Elm Street in Mechanic Falls. The call was disconnected. Witnesses reported seeing Mr. Callahan repeatedly ram his wife’s vehicle while driving his vehicle at a high rate of speed. Apparently Mr. Callahan did not realize that while he was ramming the vehicle, his wife had managed to get out of the vehicle and run for safety after the first time her vehicle was rammed. 
Deputy Sheriff Dennis Sampson, a 23-year veteran police officer, was at a residence on Pleasant Street in Mechanic Falls handling a call when he received a request to respond to the report of the wife’s vehicle being rammed by Mr. Callahan. Deputy Sampson learned that the matter involved a domestic dispute with the possible involvement of a weapon. He also learned that the incident involved Mr. Callahan, a person with whom Deputy Sampson was familiar and on whom he had conducted bail checks. Deputy Sampson was aware of the incident in Minot six months earlier involving the armed standoff between Mr. Callahan and the police.
On his way to the call, Deputy Sampson observed a red Chevy Avalanche with substantial front-end damage coming from the opposite direction. The Avalanche made a right turn onto Route 124. Deputy Sampson communicated his observations to the Sheriff’s Office and learned that the Avalanche was believed to be operated by Mr. Callahan. Deputy Sampson, in a marked cruiser with emergency lights and siren activated, attempted to stop Mr. Callahan. Mr. Callahan failed to stop and a vehicle pursuit was initiated. The pursuit, which started in a residential area and continued into a more rural setting, involved speeds between 50 and 60 miles per hour. During the pursuit, Deputy Sampson was informed by a dispatcher that Mr. Callahan was possibly armed. The pursuit continued for about two miles onto the Goodwin Road until Mr. Callahan stopped his vehicle at the intersection of the Goodwin Road and Pottle Hill Road.
Deputy Sampson saw the backup lights on Mr. Callahan’s vehicle come on, and then saw the vehicle backing up at a high rate of speed towards him. Deputy Sampson believed that Mr. Callahan was attempting to ram his cruiser with his vehicle. Deputy Sampson began backing up his cruiser to avoid a collision. Deputy Sampson repeatedly looked behind his cruiser while backing up and also looked forward so that he could monitor what Mr. Callahan was doing. Deputy Sampson’s cruiser went off the right side of the Goodwin Road down an embankment into a ditch, putting the top of Deputy Sampson’s police vehicle roughly at road level. Mr. Callahan stopped his truck slightly off the pavement on the left side of the road parallel to, but slightly forward of, Deputy Sampson’s cruiser in the ditch across the road.
Deputy Sampson noticed that the red Avalanche was rocking as though Mr. Callahan was moving inside. Deputy Sampson was unable to see what Mr. Callahan was doing inside the vehicle because of tinted side windows on the Avalanche. Deputy Sampson became concerned that Mr. Callahan would continue to try to ram his cruiser or, given the information that Mr. Callahan was possibly armed as well as his history, that Mr. Callahan would attempt to shoot him. Deputy Sampson got out of his cruiser and positioned himself behind the open driver’s side door and fired what he believed to be three or four rounds at the driver’s compartment of the Avalanche. Mr. Callahan sped off toward the Pottle Hill Road intersection where he made a right turn. Shortly after, several law enforcement officers apprehended Mr. Callahan on the Greenwoods Mountain Road on the Minot/Hebron town line. Mr. Callahan got out of his vehicle, appearing disoriented, and vomited. Mr. Callahan indicated that he may have overdosed on medication he had with him in the vehicle. Mr. Callahan was transported to a Lewiston hospital, treated, and later arrested. He was not injured by the shots fired by Deputy Sampson.
Later investigation disclosed that Mr. Callahan’s residence on the Verrill Road in Minot had burned to the ground. Mr. Callahan was later charged with setting fire to that residence, as well as the mobile home residence of his estranged wife in Mechanic Falls. He was also charged with domestic violence reckless conduct, aggravated assault, reckless conduct, and violating the conditions of bail and a protection order. The charges are pending awaiting trial.
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 Deputy Sampson fired the three shots in the direction of Mr. Callahan in his vehicle, it was reasonable for Deputy Sampson to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him by Mr. Callahan’s actions, and it was reasonable for Deputy Sampson to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself from the imminent threat of deadly force. This conclusion is based on an extensive scene investigation, interviews with numerous individuals, and all other evidence made available from any source.
- See April 9, 2013, report of the Attorney General on the use of deadly force by State Police Trooper Paul Casey on December 22, 2012 in Minot.
- Just prior to this encounter, Mr. Callahan is alleged to have also set fire to the mobile home in which his wife was living in Mechanic Falls. The fire was reported and quickly extinguished by the Mechanic Falls Fire Department. The fire damage was limited to a wooden deck attached to the mobile home.
- Later investigation disclosed that the ditch was an approximate three-foot drop in elevation from the roadway.
- Later investigation determined that Deputy Sampson fired three shots from his .40 caliber service weapon.