Attorney General Finds Cumberland County Deputy Sheriffs Acted in Self-Defense in Sebago
August 21, 2009
AUGUSTA - Attorney General Janet T. Mills has concluded that Cumberland County Deputy Sheriffs David Hall and Stephen Welsh acted in self-defense under the Maine Criminal Code when they shot and wounded Douglas A. Tenczar, age 41, the evening of October 22, 2008, at Tenczar’s home in Sebago.
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. 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 deadly force is imminently threatened against the officer or a third person. Second, the officer must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to meet or counter that imminent threat.
The Attorney General’s investigation and analysis concluded that Deputy Hall reasonably believed that deadly force was imminently threatened by Mr. Tenczar against him, and Deputy Welsh similarly believed that such force was imminently threatened by Mr. Tenczar against Deputy Hall. Further, Attorney General Mills concluded that Deputy Hall reasonably believed that deadly force on his part was necessary to protect him from that imminent threat, and that Deputy Welsh similarly believed that such force on his part was necessary to protect Deputy Hall from the imminent threat posed by Mr. Tenczar.
The Attorney General reported the following findings from her office's investigation:
On October 22, 2008, shortly after 6 p.m., the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call. The caller reported that three young women in a vehicle on Route 114 in Sebago were threatened with the display of a handgun by a man in another vehicle in what was described as a “road rage” incident. Initial investigation resulted in three deputy sheriffs, Sgt. David Hall, Stephen Welsh, and Peter Anderson, arriving near the home of a suspect, Douglas Tenczar, on the Ledge Road in Sebago within 30 minutes of the initial 911 call. All three deputies were in uniform and each was operating a marked police cruiser.
Observing a fence with an open gate at the entrance to the driveway, the deputies parked their cruisers and walked to the Tenczar residence, which they observed to be well illuminated by interior lights. They observed a vehicle matching the description of the vehicle involved in the road rage incident parked next to the residence. Sgt. Hall and Deputy Welsh scanned the interior of the vehicle with flashlights, and observed no gun. Deputy Welsh reported hearing a noise from inside the house like “chairs moving or something falling,” as well as a man inside the house voicing something indecipherable. The deputies walked onto an outside deck. Sgt. Hall instructed Deputy Anderson to watch the front of the house; Sgt. Hall and Deputy Welsh walked along the outside deck. Deputy Welsh saw no one in the house when he looked through a window on the side of the house and then through a window in a door on the side of the house. Sgt. Hall stopped at the side door while Deputy Welsh continued on the wraparound deck slightly past the corner of the house, stopping at a rear sliding glass door. Sgt. Hall and Deputy Welsh were at that point 12–16 feet apart from one another on the exterior deck. None of the deputies had drawn their weapons. Their intention was to question Tenczar concerning the reported road rage incident.
Sgt. Hall, on the deck at the side door and still seeing no one inside the house, knocked on the door. Sgt. Hall saw no one inside the home at that precise moment, but Deputy Welsh observed a man – later identified as Tenczar – lying on the kitchen floor. Seconds later, both Sgt. Hall and Deputy Welsh observed, from their respective positions, Tenczar move quickly around a bar in the kitchen and disappear through an interior doorway toward the rear of the house. Deputy Welsh said that Tenczar ran in a “low crouch.” Sgt. Hall announced over his portable radio that Tenczar had fled to the back of the house.
According to both Sgt. Hall and Deputy Welsh, they saw Tenczar immediately reappear with a shotgun in a crouched position. Sgt. Hall observed that Tenczar was looking directly at him as Tenczar started to approach him. Sgt. Hall drew his service weapon while moving to the left side of the door. Tenczar continued to close the short distance to where Sgt. Hall stood. Sgt. Hall observed Tenczar raise the shotgun to his shoulder and point it directly at him. Deputy Welsh also saw Tenczar bring the shotgun to his shoulder and point it directly at Sgt. Hall. Deputy Welsh heard Sgt. Hall yell, “He’s got a gun,” and he observed Tenczar “tracking” the weapon along the wall toward his (Welsh’s) position. At this same moment, Sgt. Hall was moving along the deck away from the side door and stopped at a kitchen window. When Sgt. Hall observed through the window that Tenczar was continuing toward him with the shotgun pointed directly at him, he fired his service weapon twice at Tenczar. Simultaneously, Deputy Welsh, still at the rear sliding glass door, fired his service weapon three times at Tenczar. Tenczar, struck by the deputies’ gunfire, fell to the floor.
Deputy Anderson, who was outside the front of the residence, heard a “thump” inside the residence as the three deputies approached the outside deck. He heard the other deputies knocking on the door and saw a man inside the residence – later identified as Tenczar – flee to the rear of the house. Within seconds, Deputy Anderson heard Sgt. Hall shout that the man had a gun, and he observed the man with a long gun approaching the door where Sgt. Hall was standing on the deck. He observed the man bring the gun to his shoulder and point it in Sgt. Hall’s direction. Deputy Anderson drew his service weapon and aimed it at Tenczar, but did not shoot at Tenczar for fear of striking Deputy Welsh who he knew to be on the deck at the rear of the house. Deputy Anderson also observed Tenczar “tracking” Sgt. Hall’s position with the shotgun. When Deputy Anderson attempted to move to a better position, he heard what turned out to be the discharge of both Sgt. Hall’s and Welsh’s weapons, and saw Tenczar fall to the floor.
Deputy Anderson’s cruiser contained a dash-mounted video camera, which recorded an audio broadcast from a remote microphone on Deputy Anderson’s uniform during the incident at Tenczar’s residence. Heard on the recording is Sgt. Hall knocking at the door of the residence and Welsh shouting several times, “Come to the door.” Seconds later, a deputy is heard saying, “He’s armed.” Gunshots are heard about a half minute after Sgt. Hall’s knock on the door. Later investigation disclosed that at the time Tenczar was shot, he was about 16 feet from Sgt. Hall, and 18 feet from Deputy Welsh.
Sgt. Hall administered first aid to Tenczar until the arrival of emergency medical technicians. Tenczar was taken to a hospital for treatment. He was thereafter flown by helicopter to a Lewiston hospital for further treatment of three gunshot wounds to the groin, right shoulder, and right arm. Toxicology tests at the time of his initial hospital treatment disclosed that Tenczar had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.28%, as well as marijuana and benzodiazepines in his system.
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 Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police. The Sheriff’s Office cooperated fully with the investigation and conducted its own internal review of the incident.
Benzodiazepines are a class of drug commonly known as tranquilizers and sleeping pills, and are predominantly used for conditions associated with anxiety or sleeping problems.
Contact: Kate Simmons Phone: (207) 626-8577