Attorney General Report on Law Enforcement Officer’s Use of Deadly Force on November 3, 2007
January 11, 2008
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today, January 11, 2008, that he has determined that Cumberland County Deputy Sheriff Andrew Feeney was legally justified when he shot and wounded Peter M. Ronfeldt, age 28, the night of November 3, 2007, outside the home of Ronfeldt’s father on the River Road in Limington.
The Attorney General's investigation focused on the issue of whether the use of deadly force by Deputy Feeney in the particular situation was legally justified. The Attorney General is required by law to review all occurrences in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force while in the performance of the officer’s public duty.
Under the Maine Criminal Code, for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force for purposes of self-protection or the protection of third persons, 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 the officer's use of deadly force is necessary to meet or counter that imminent threat. (Maine law defines deadly force as physical force that a person uses with the intent of causing, or which the person knows to create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily injury. With respect to a firearm, intentionally or recklessly discharging a firearm in the direction of another person or at a moving vehicle is deadly force under Maine law.)
Attorney General Rowe determined that, based on the investigation and legal analysis conducted by his office, Deputy Feeney actually and reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened by Mr. Ronfeldt against him. Further, based on the investigation and legal analysis, Attorney General Rowe determined that Deputy Feeney actually and reasonably believed that deadly force on his part was necessary to protect him from the imminent threat.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from his office's investigation:
Shortly after 11 P.M. on November 3, 2007, Alexander Ronfeldt, 61, of Limington called the emergency line of the York County Sheriff’s Office and reported that an intruder armed with a rifle or shotgun was trying to gain entry into Alexander Ronfeldt’s house. Alexander Ronfeldt told the dispatcher that he had armed himself in response. Alexander Ronfeldt further told the dispatcher that he believed the intruder to be his estranged son, Peter Ronfeldt, of whom he was fearful. York County Deputy Sheriff Stanley Moore was dispatched to Alexander Ronfeldt’s residence. The closest York County backup deputy was a significant distance from Limington, resulting in Deputy Andrew Feeney of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office being dispatched to assist Deputy Moore. Both deputies were informed by their respective dispatchers that the intruder was reported to be armed with a firearm.
Both deputies arrived at Alexander Ronfeldt’s residence in Limington at about the same time -between 11:15 and 11:30 P.M. They were both in uniform and were driving marked cruisers. The deputies parked their vehicles on River Road at the bottom of Alexander Ronfeldt’s driveway. The deputies made their way on foot towards the residence in order to contact Alexander Ronfeldt and secure his safety. Deputy Moore remained in radio contact with the police dispatcher who was, at the same time, speaking with Alexander Ronfeldt by telephone and informing him that police officers had arrived at his residence.
Deputy Feeney told investigators that as soon as the officers began walking up the driveway, Deputy Feeney drew his service weapon (a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun) and Deputy Moore carried an assault rifle. Feeney also stated that neither he nor Deputy Moore used their flashlights to illuminate the area, notwithstanding the fact that it was “pitch black” outside, because they did not want to make themselves targets. As the Deputies approached to within 15 feet of the Ronfeldt home, they were approximately 10 to 15 feet apart from each other. According to Feeney, he stepped to the left side of the house with his flashlight in his left hand and his service weapon in his right hand. Feeney described his wrists as being crossed, with his right hand (with the gun) on top of his left (with the flashlight).
According to Deputy Feeney, there were no lights on either inside or outside of the house, except for what appeared to be the flickering of a television. Feeney said that he moved to the left front of the house with the intention of making sure that no one was there. He further stated that, as he looked around the corner of the house, he observed a combination of movement and a figure. Feeney said that he “tapped” his flashlight, meaning that he gave a very brief flash of light to illuminate the area, and when he did, he saw a man three to five feet away holding a long gun at chest height with the barrel pointed directly at Feeney’s chest.
Deputy Feeney said that it was “obvious” to him that the weapon was a shotgun because of the “big round barrel.” Feeney estimated that the barrel of the gun was approximately 3 to 5 feet away from him. Feeney stated that his first thought was that he was going to be shot and that his life was in danger. Feeney moved quickly and stumbled backwards and to the left, with the purpose of trying to avoid being shot directly in the chest. As Deputy Feeney was going backwards, he fired his weapon two or three times, according to his best recollection.
Deputy Moore moved quickly to Feeney’s position and both officers found Peter Ronfeldt, wounded and in a sitting position, along the outside wall of the residence. Peter Ronfeldt was conscious and alert, and engaged the two deputies in an agitated dialogue. Deputy Moore stated that he observed the blade of a knife sticking out of Ronfeldt’s left front pocket. It was determined that Ronfeldt had been struck twice by Feeney’s gunfire, once in the mid-torso and once in the upper left chest. Feeney and Moore administered emergency aid to Ronfeldt and summoned medical personnel to the scene. Ronfeldt was taken by ambulance to a Portland hospital and treated for the two gunshot wounds.
It was determined that the weapon possessed by Peter Ronfeldt was a single-shot 12-guage shotgun loaded with #00 buck magnum ammunition. Contrary to a claim by Peter Ronfeldt that the shotgun was inoperative, Maine State Police Crime Laboratory forensic specialists determined the weapon to be functional.
Detectives from the Attorney General’s Office went to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation. They were assisted by detectives and forensic specialists from the State Police. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office cooperated fully with the investigation.
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David Loughran, (207) 626-8577