Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force By State Police Trooper on August 3, 2014, in Lagrange

March 9, 2015

Synopsis

On August 3, 2014, Lewis Conlogue, age 49, was shot and killed in Lagrange by Sgt. Scott Hamilton of the Maine State Police. The Office of the Attorney General investigated the incident to determine whether the officer was acting in self-defense or in defense of someone else at the time he used deadly force.

Facts

During the afternoon of Sunday, August 3, 2014, DanaRae Conlogue called 911 and reported that her husband, Lewis Conlogue, was threatening to shoot himself with a handgun in the parking lot of a restaurant no longer in business on the Bennoch Road in Lagrange. She and her husband were driving to their home in Lagrange when they started arguing. When Mr. Conlogue threatened to jump from the moving vehicle if his wife did not stop the car, Mrs. Conlogue pulled into the closed restaurant’s parking lot and stopped. Mr. Conlogue got out of the car with a gun to his head and said, “You do not want to see what I’m going to do.” As Mr. Conlogue walked away from the car, his wife followed him in an attempt to reason with him. He made other statements to the effect that he could never do anything right, and he handed her a flower with blood on it and told her it was his DNA. Mrs. Conlogue told the 911 operator that her husband recently consumed four or five pills of a medication prescribed to him for an anxiety disorder.[1] As law enforcement officers were dispatched to the call, Mrs. Conlogue, following instructions of the emergency dispatcher, removed the ignition key from the car and retreated to a position of safety.

State Police troopers and Penobscot County deputy sheriffs were dispatched. Three troopers who arrived at the location positioned themselves across the street from Mr. Conlogue, who was still in the parking lot.[2] While the troopers could observe Mr. Conlogue’s movements from their vantage points, one of the troopers was equipped with binoculars and able to provide a running account of Mr. Conlogue’s movements to the other officers. Mr. Conlogue was seen holding a small semi-automatic pistol to his head. Efforts at that point to persuade Mr. Conlogue to relinquish the firearm were unsuccessful. The attempts were, for the most part, met with agitation by Mr. Conlogue who responded to the officers with expletives. While several other officers were present, Mr. Conlogue eventually focused almost exclusively on the three troopers across the road, having indicated his knowledge of their presence by pointing at each trooper. Each time the troopers changed positions, Mr. Conlogue similarly gestured to indicate he was aware of their presence.

As the event progressed, Mr. Conlogue became more agitated. He went to his parked car from which he removed a large knife that he slid into a back pocket. He was also observed ingesting what appeared to be medication. As the sun set behind the three troopers, Mr. Conlogue donned sunglasses and leaned over the hood of the car where he rested his chin in his right hand with the handgun in his left hand still pointed to the side of his head. He then moved the gun from his head and pointed it towards the three troopers. In the meantime, Penobscot County deputy sheriff William Sheehan tried repeatedly to persuade Mr. Conlogue to relinquish the firearm. When Mr. Conlogue pointed the gun in the direction of the three troopers, he was told to put the gun down but refused. His only response was to pick up a magazine for the gun. The trooper with the binoculars reported that he could see that the magazine was loaded. Mr. Conlogue stood the magazine on end on the hood of the car. Deputy Sheehan, using a loud speaker system, instructed Mr. Conlogue to stop pointing the gun at the troopers, and to unload it and put it down. Mr. Conlogue ignored the deputy’s commands.

Mr. Conlogue then started raising the gun up and lowering it, all the time pointed in the direction of the troopers across the road. Observing these actions, the troopers became increasingly concerned; the trooper with the binoculars could see the barrel of the gun pointed in the direction of the three troopers each time Mr. Conlogue raised and lowered the gun and recognized that Mr. Conlogue could pull the trigger at any moment. Mr. Conlogue was again told to put the gun down and to stop pointing it at the troopers. Again, he refused to comply with the instruction.

State Police Sgt. Scott Hamilton, a patrol supervisor and assistant commander of the State Police Tactical Team, arrived at the location about an hour after the 911 call. He was armed with a rifle. He requested that members of the State Police Crisis Negotiation Team respond to the scene. Sgt. Hamilton could see Mr. Conlogue walking around the parking lot with a handgun to his head. Further attempts were made by Deputy Sheehan to convince Mr. Conlogue to relinquish the gun and accept help from the officers. These attempts failed. At the scene for more than two hours, Sgt. Hamilton eventually took up a position later determined to be some 413 feet from Mr. Conlogue. He heard Deputy Sheehan warning Mr. Conlogue not to point his gun at the troopers across the road and to put the gun down. Mr. Conlogue continued to alternately hold the gun to his head and point it in the direction of the troopers. Sgt. Hamilton became increasingly concerned for the safety of the several officers now on the scene and particularly the three troopers across the road when he learned that none of them could safely retreat from or change their positions because of the threatening actions of Mr. Conlogue. He observed Mr. Conlogue holding the gun to his head and, when Mr. Conlogue again pointed the gun at the troopers across the road, Sgt. Hamilton fired one round from his rifle at Mr. Conlogue. The bullet struck Mr. Conlogue, resulting in a fatal injury. It was 3 hours since the call to 911, and about three hours since the arrival of the first officers.

Mr. Conlogue was wearing a wrist watch. A fully-loaded pistol magazine for the .22 caliber handgun with which he was armed was tucked between the watchband and the underside of his left wrist. It was also discovered that sometime during the course of the standoff, Mr. Conlogue had written in ink on his right arm, “I can’t do anything right.”

Contemporaneous with Sgt. Hamilton firing his weapon, two other troopers, independent of Sgt. Hamilton’s decision to shoot and independent of one another, made a decision to shoot Mr. Conlogue but did not carry through. One of these troopers was positioned next to Sgt. Hamilton, made similar observations, and heard the same reports of Mr. Conlogue’s movements with the gun. The second trooper was one of the three across the road from Mr. Conlogue and was actually pulling the trigger on his gun when Mr. Conlogue was shot by Sgt. Hamilton.

A postmortem examination by Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum determined that Mr. Conlogue died as a result of a single gunshot wound.

Analysis and Conclusion

The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating any incident in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force while acting in the performance of the officer's duties. 5 M.R.S. 200-A. The only purpose of the Attorney General’s investigation of the incident in Lagrange on August 3, 2014, 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 Sgt. Hamilton for causing the death of Mr. Conlogue. The review did not include an analysis of potential civil liability, of whether any administrative action is warranted, or of whether the use of deadly force could have been averted.

Under Maine law, for any person, including a law enforcement officer, to be permitted to use deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or against someone else; and, second, the person must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.

By law, whether the use of force by a law enforcement officer 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 given 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 Sgt. Hamilton shot Mr. Conlogue, Sgt. Hamilton reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against him and other persons within range of the weapon brandished by Mr. Conlogue. It was reasonable for Sgt. Hamilton to believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect himself and others from the imminent threat of deadly force. Sgt. Hamilton acted in defense of himself and others who were within range of and in the line of fire of Mr. Conlogue’s gun. The Attorney General’s conclusions are based on an extensive scene investigation, on interviews with numerous individuals, and on a review of all evidence made available from any source.

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