Report of Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by State Police Trooper in Searsmont on September 20, 2013

April 11, 2014

On September 20, 2013, Leonard E. Maker, 42, was shot and wounded by State Police Trooper James R. MacDonald during an armed confrontation inside Mr. Maker?s residence in Searsmont.


During the afternoon of Friday, September 20, 2013, State Police Trooper James R. MacDonald was assigned to serve a Maryland protection-from-abuse order on Leonard E. Maker, who was reported to be residing either in Northport or Searsmont. Trooper MacDonald was told by a Waldo County deputy sheriff who had previously dealt with him that Mr. Maker?s wife and child had left Maine and moved to Maryland, and that Mr. Maker had recently lost his job. Given these circumstances and based on his observations at the time of Mr. Maker?s previous arrest, the deputy told Trooper MacDonald that he felt that Mr. Maker was potentially suicidal or assaultive. Trooper MacDonald also learned that Mr. Maker had multiple warrants for his arrest. [1] While another trooper, Desiree Wuthenow, collected the appropriate documents associated with the protection-from-abuse order and arrest warrants, Trooper MacDonald checked at a residence in Northport where he found no one home. He learned from a neighbor ? who turned out to be Mr. Maker?s mother ? that Mr. Maker was staying at his father?s residence on the New England Road in Searsmont. [2]

Trooper MacDonald met with Trooper Wuthenow to brief her on the information he had gathered and to discuss a plan on how they would approach Mr. Maker. Trooper Wuthenow had already driven by the New England Road residence in Searsmont to become familiar with its location and to determine if there were any vehicles in the driveway.

When the two troopers arrived at the Searsmont residence, Trooper Wuthenow approached the front door and Trooper MacDonald walked to the rear of the residence. Both troopers were dressed in uniform and drove to the residence in marked cruisers. [3] Trooper Wuthenow made contact with Mr. Maker at the front door through a small opening in the door where a pane of glass had been previously removed. The glass portion of the door was covered with a curtain and Mr. Maker moved the curtain aside to speak with Trooper Wuthenow. From the rear of the building, Trooper MacDonald heard the conversation between Trooper Wuthenow and Mr. Maker and went to the front of the residence. Trooper Wuthenow attempted without success to get Mr. Maker to come outside. Trooper MacDonald also attempted to talk Mr. Maker into coming outside. Trooper MacDonald explained to Mr. Maker that he had multiple warrants for his arrest and that he needed to come outside.

After refusing to come out of the residence and still talking to the troopers at the door, Mr. Maker told Trooper MacDonald that he needed to get a drink of water before he came out. Trooper MacDonald told Mr. Maker that he did not want him to leave his sight and that if he did not come outside, the troopers would come in. Mr. Maker left the door, closing the curtain in the process. Trooper MacDonald attempted to open the door by kicking it, but encountered difficulty. [4] Upon forcing the door open, Trooper MacDonald was immediately confronted in a kitchen area by Mr. Maker pointing a shotgun at him. [5] Trooper MacDonald described Mr. Maker as being so close that he could have touched the shotgun. Trooper MacDonald retreated from the kitchen and fired multiple rounds from his .45 caliber handgun in the direction of Mr. Maker. [6] Trooper Wuthenow, believing that Mr. Maker might escape from the rear of the residence, started to run around to the back of the residence but ran back to the front when she heard Trooper MacDonald giving commands to Mr. Maker to get down on the floor.

When Trooper MacDonald heard what he believed to be Mr. Maker?s shotgun hitting the floor, he went back into the house and saw Mr. Maker getting to his feet. Trooper MacDonald ordered Mr. Maker to the floor and Mr. Maker pointed to his own chest and told Trooper MacDonald to shoot him, then pointed to another firearm leaning against a wall. While Trooper Wuthenow secured the shotgun, Trooper MacDonald struggled with Mr. Maker in an attempt to move him away from the second firearm in the room. At one point in the effort, Trooper MacDonald used pepper spray in an attempt to control Mr. Maker?s resistance. Trooper MacDonald eventually succeeded in pushing Mr. Maker out of the house where he was able to restrain him on the front lawn. It was discovered at this point that Mr. Maker had been shot in the hand. [7] Medical aid was provided by a game warden who had arrived at the residence, and then Mr. Maker was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Mr. Maker was later indicted by the Waldo County Grand Jury on felony level charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct with a firearm, as well as a misdemeanor level charge of refusing to submit to arrest.

Detectives from the Office of the Attorney General went to Searsmont to investigate the incident. They were assisted by State Police detectives and evidence technicians.

Analysis and Conclusion The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating the circumstances under which any law enforcement officer uses deadly force while acting in the performance of the officer's duties. The sole purpose of the Attorney General?s investigation in this matter was to determine whether self-defense or the defense of others, as defined by law, was reasonably generated by the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution of Trooper MacDonald. The review did not include an analysis of potential civil liability, whether any administrative action was warranted, or whether the use of deadly force could have been averted. Under Maine law, for any person, including a law enforcement officer, to be justified in using deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the person must actually and reasonably believe that unlawful deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or someone else; and, second, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.

Whether the use of force is reasonable is based on the totality of the particular circumstances and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. The analysis requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each case, including the severity of the crime threatened or committed and whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of others.

Attorney General Janet T. Mills has concluded that at the time Trooper MacDonald fired his weapon at Mr. Maker, Trooper MacDonald reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against him and Trooper Wuthenow, and that it was reasonable for Trooper MacDonald to believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect himself and Trooper Wuthenow from that imminent threat of deadly force by Mr. Maker. The Attorney General?s conclusions are based on an extensive scene investigation, on interviews with numerous individuals, including Mr. Maker whose statements to investigators were consistent with the accounts of the troopers, and on a review of all evidence made available from any source.

[1] The five arrest warrants were for failure to appear in court to answer to allegations of violating conditions of release, operating after suspension, and negotiating a worthless instrument.

[2] It was later learned that Mr. Maker?s mother called him to let him know the State Police were looking for him.

[3] Mr. Maker, having been alerted by his mother that the State Police were looking for him, later acknowledged having seen the State Police cruiser drive by his residence, and the two officers he knew to be State Police troopers arrive at his residence.

[4] It was later determined that the door was screwed to the door frame.

[5] The investigation determined that the 12 gauge shotgun was loaded with a single slug round.

[6] The investigation determined that Trooper MacDonald fired four rounds.

[7] The same round that struck Mr. Maker in the hand also struck and shattered the wooden stock on the shotgun. The other three rounds fired by Trooper MacDonald did not strike Mr. Maker.