Report of the Attorney General on the Use of Deadly Force by Bangor Police Officer on December 1, 2015 in Bangor

March 25, 2016

Synopsis

In the early evening of Tuesday, December 1, 2015, Joshua Jozefowicz, 23, of Ellsworth, was shot and killed by Bangor police officer Ryan Jones in a wooded area off Outer Hammond Street in Bangor.

Discussion

The Attorney General has exclusive responsibility for the direction and control of any criminal investigation of a law enforcement officer who, while acting in the performance of the officer’s duties, uses deadly force. [1] The detectives in the Office of the Attorney General who investigate these incidents are independent of and unaffiliated with any other law enforcement agency. The purpose of the criminal investigation of the incident in Bangor on December 1, 2015, which resulted in the death of Mr. Jozefowicz, was to determine whether self-defense, including the defense of others, was reasonably generated by the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution of Officer Jones. Any such prosecution would require the State to disprove self-defense or the defense of others beyond a reasonable doubt. The investigation did not include an analysis of whether any personnel action might be warranted, of whether the use of deadly force could have been averted, or of whether there might be civil liability. Indeed, state law provides that conduct determined to be permissible under the Criminal Code does not abolish or impair any other remedy available under the law.

In order for any person, including a law enforcement officer, to legally use deadly force in self-defense or in defense of a third party, 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. Further, whether the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer is reasonable must be based on the totality of the particular circumstances and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene at the time, 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 legal 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.

Facts

On November 28, 2015, a Carmel man reported to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office that his vehicle had been stolen while parked outside his residence. The man told an investigating officer that two friends, a woman and her boyfriend, had stayed over at his residence the previous night. He named the woman, but only knew the boyfriend as “Joshua.” At about 6 P.M. on December 1, the man called the Sheriff’s Office to report that a friend had told him that his vehicle was seen in the parking lot of a convenience store on Outer Hammond Street in Bangor.

Officer Ryan Jones of the Bangor Police Department followed up on the report. He was in uniform and driving a marked cruiser. Arriving at the convenience store a few minutes after the report, Officer Jones saw the stolen vehicle and, as he approached it on foot, he saw a man and woman in the vehicle. Officer Jones spoke with the driver, later identified as Joshua Jozefowicz, who told the officer that the vehicle belonged to a friend. While initially claiming that he had permission to use the vehicle, Mr. Jozefowicz became evasive as the conversation continued. Mr. Jozefowicz got out of the car and accompanied Officer Jones to the police cruiser. Officer Jones stood in front of the cruiser and Mr. Jozefowicz moved toward the passenger’s side of the cruiser so that the hood of the cruiser was between them. Officer Jones told Mr. Jozefowicz to move to the front of the cruiser, but he did not do so. Instead, Mr. Jozefowicz abruptly ran away from Officer Jones into an adjacent field. He ignored commands from Officer Jones to stop.

Officer Jones ran after Mr. Jozefowicz. The only source of significant light was Officer Jones’ flashlight. Mr. Jozefowicz failed to comply with the officer’s commands to stop. Officer Jones was about 10 to 12 feet behind Mr. Jozefowicz during the chase. As they neared a wooded area, Mr. Jozefowicz put a hand in his jacket pocket. Officer Jones drew his firearm, and ordered Mr. Jozefowicz to show his hands. In response, Mr. Jozefowicz shot at Officer Jones. Officer Jones ordered Mr. Jozefowicz to “drop it,” and Mr. Jozefowicz shouted “back up.” Officer Jones returned fire.[2] Mr. Jozefowicz was struck by the gunfire and fell to the ground. Emergency medical personnel were on the scene within minutes and determined that Mr. Jozefowicz was dead.

Mr. Jozefowicz’s gun was a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol loaded with nine rounds, including one in the chamber. Mr. Jozefowicz was also in possession of two small boxes containing crack cocaine. At the time of his death, Mr. Jozefowicz had several substances in his system, including morphine, cocaine, fentanyl, monoacetylmorphine (indicative of heroin use), and diltiazem (used for the treatment of high blood pressure and angina but also used as a mix with heroin). There was a warrant for Mr. Jozefowicz’s arrest out of Hancock County and he was a convicted felon as a result of drug possession convictions in 2013, a status which prohibited him from possessing a firearm.

Conclusion

Attorney General Janet T. Mills concludes that at the time Officer Jones shot Mr. Jozefowicz, he reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was being used against him, and that it was reasonable for him to believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect himself and any other persons, including responding back-up officers, within range of Mr. Jozefowicz and his firearm. The Attorney General’s conclusions are based on interviews with numerous individuals, an extensive forensic investigation, and a review of all the evidence available from all sources. All facts lead to the conclusion that Officer Jones acted to defend himself and others from the unlawful use of deadly force by Mr. Jozefowicz.

[1] 5 M.R.S. 200-A. [2] Later investigation determined that Mr. Jozefowicz fired a single round, and Officer Jones discharged 13 rounds, six of which struck Mr. Jozefowicz.

#

Supporting documents

AG Report FINAL Bangor Jones