Full military honors will be accorded a former U.S. Marine fatally shot by law enforcement officers near a veterans hospital last week when he is buried today.
A Marine Corps honor guard will attend the interment of Grindstone resident James F. Popkowski, 37, at Grindstone Road Cemetery of Medway after a funeral Mass at St. Peter Catholic Church of East Millinocket at 10 a.m.
The graveside salute likely will occur at about 11:30 a.m., said Chip Lamson of Lamson Funeral Home of East Millinocket. Popkowski’s wake was held at the home on Monday.
Veterans Affairs police Officer Thomas Park and Maine Warden Service Sgt. Ron Dunham apparently shot Popkowski, a clinic patient, in woods off Route 17 near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Togus last Thursday. Preliminary evidence shows the officers fired in self-defense, officials have said.
Popkowski had carried a gun, which witnesses tentatively identified as a rifle, “in a threatening manner,” investigators said.
Maine State Attorney General’s Office investigators will determine whether in the moment of firing the officers reasonably believed that lives, their own or others’, were endangered and that the deadly force used to subdue Popkowski provided the only means to end the danger, officials have said.
Witnesses have said several shots were fired, possibly in response to a round being discharged. Some said they did not see Popkowski act aggressively before he was shot. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office has declined to provide more details of the shooting or the events immediately preceding it.
The officers and Game Warden Joey Lefebvre, who did not use deadly force, are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The Attorney General’s Office handles incidents involving Maine law enforcement officers’ use of deadly force.
The investigation likely will take 60 to 90 days.
His friends and neighbors have described Popkowski as a patriotic, uncommonly polite and generous man, eager to help others and heroically contending with a debilitating illness, a rare form of cancer that apparently forced his honorable discharge from the Marines in 2003.
Popkowski apparently had contested for many months the termination of at least some of his medical treatments.
Some of his friends have expressed doubt that Popkowski intended to commit murder, suicide or suicide by cop, in which people induce police officers to kill them, during his encounter at Togus. Those who saw him in the hours or days leading to the incident maintain that they saw nothing unusual in his behavior.
A strong believer in his right to bear arms, Popkowski liked to carry a handgun in a holster or shoot on a target range at his house on Grindstone Road, neighbors said.
Visitors typically are not allowed to carry firearms onto any U.S. Veterans Affairs hospital or medical center property.
Popkowski’s family has declined to comment.