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Report of Attorney General on State Trooper's Use of Deadly Force in Parsonsfield on November 24, 2008
May 5, 2009
Attorney General Janet T. Mills has concluded that State Police Trooper Daniel Worcester was legally justified under the Maine Criminal Code when he fired his weapon at a vehicle operated by 23-year-old Jesse F. Sanborn the night of November 24, 2008, on the Randall Lake Road in Parsonsfield.
The Attorney General is charged by law with the direction of any criminal investigation of a law enforcement officer who, while acting in the performance of that officer's duties, uses deadly force. The function of the Attorney General’s investigation and review is to determine whether self defense or defense of others as defined in the Criminal Code is reasonably generated on the facts so as to preclude a criminal prosecution.
The review does not include whether there is any civil liability, whether any administrative action is warranted or whether, in hindsight, the use of deadly force was potentially avoidable.
Maine law defines deadly force as physical force that a person uses with the intent of causing, or that a person knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily injury. Further, in the specific context of a firearm, Maine law defines deadly force to include the intentional or reckless discharge of a firearm in the direction of another person or at a moving vehicle.
Under Maine law, for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force for self defense or the defense of others, two requirements must be met. First, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that unlawful deadly force is imminently threatened against the officer or a third person. Second, the officer must actually and reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to meet or counter that imminent threat.
In addition, under certain limited circumstances, a law enforcement officer is justified in using deadly force to effect an arrest. Specifically, a law enforcement officer is justified in using deadly force to effect an arrest when the officer actually and reasonably believes that the person has committed a crime involving the use or threatened use of deadly force, or otherwise indicates that the person is likely to endanger seriously human life or to inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay. When using deadly force to effect an arrest, however, the law enforcement officer must first make reasonable efforts to advise the person that the officer is a law enforcement officer attempting to effect an arrest, and the officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is aware of this advice.
The Attorney General’s investigation and analysis concluded that Trooper Worcester reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened by Mr. Sanborn against fellow officers, and that Trooper Worcester reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to protect others from the imminent threat of deadly force. The Attorney General’s investigation also determined that Trooper Worcester reasonably believed that Mr. Sanborn had committed crimes involving the use or threatened use of deadly force, that he was likely to endanger seriously human life unless apprehended without delay, and that Mr. Sanborn knew that Trooper Worcester was a law enforcement officer attempting to place him under arrest.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from her office’s investigation:
On the evening of November 24, 2008, State Police Trooper Daniel Worcester was assigned to patrol duties in certain areas of York County, including the Town of Parsonsfield. Worcester was in uniform and was operating an unmarked State Police cruiser that was equipped with emergency lighting and siren but that had no distinct police markings. Worcester’s cruiser was also equipped with a video camera. At about 9:00 P.M. on November 24, Trooper Worcester conducted a traffic stop of a pickup truck containing four individuals. One of those individuals fled on foot from the pickup truck. Other troopers responded to the area in an attempt to locate the individual. Trooper Worcester was patrolling the general area as part of the search.
At 10:42 P.M., Trooper Worcester was on Route 160 in Parsonsfield, where Route 160 intersects with the Cram Road, when he observed an oncoming vehicle, later determined to be operated by Jesse F. Sanborn. According to Worcester, Sanborn turned his vehicle onto the Cram Road and failed to signal the turn. Trooper Worcester activated the blue lights and siren of his cruiser, signaling Sanborn to pull over and stop. Instead of stopping, Sanborn sped up and operated his vehicle in a reckless fashion. Trooper Worcester gave chase with his cruiser’s blue lights and siren activated. In less than two minutes, Sanborn turned from the Cram Road onto the Randall Lake Road. Trooper Worcester lost sight of the Sanborn vehicle momentarily, but less than a minute after entering the Randall Lake Road, Trooper Worcester came upon the Sanborn vehicle in the process of turning around on the roadway. The Sanborn vehicle, now driving in the opposite direction toward the cruiser, struck the cruiser head on. Trooper Worcester recalled later that his cruiser had nearly come to a stop in the roadway when Sanborn’s vehicle struck it. Trooper Worcester reported the crash by radio and other troopers in the general area started toward the scene of the crash. Concerned that Sanborn would attempt to strike his cruiser again, Trooper Worcester got out of the cruiser.
In the meantime, Sanborn, whose vehicle was off the road and in a ditch area, successfully operated his vehicle past the cruiser and was attempting to drive his vehicle back onto the roadway. Trooper Worcester got out of the cruiser and ran toward the Sanborn vehicle as it attempted to get back onto the roadway. At one point while still on foot and fearing that Sanborn’s vehicle was going to strike him, Trooper Worcester moved back and fell to the road. Regaining a standing position as the Sanborn vehicle negotiated back onto the road, Trooper Worcester, who had drawn his service weapon, fired two rounds at the vehicle as it sped off. Later investigation determined that neither round struck the vehicle.
According to Trooper Worcester, the Sanborn vehicle came within six to eight feet of him on a collision course. Trooper Worcester said he believed at the time that it was Sanborn’s intent to hit him. He also thought that other police units were close by and also at risk of being rammed by the Sanborn vehicle. Because Sanborn had intentionally rammed the cruiser and then attempted to hit Trooper Worcester while on foot, Trooper Worcester reasonably believed that Sanborn would use deadly force against responding officers.
None of the officers responding to Trooper Worcester’s location reported seeing the Sanborn vehicle. About an hour after Sanborn left Worcester’s location on the Randall Lake Road, however, Sanborn’s vehicle was located by a trooper in a gravel pit off the Cram Road. The vehicle had driven through a security gate causing additional damage to the vehicle. About two hours later, Sanborn was found and taken into custody.
State Police detectives and evidence technicians assisted the Attorney General’s Office in this investigation. The State Police also conducted its own internal review of the event.
Contact: Kate Simmons, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, (207) 626-8577