Police describe lead-up to Belfast shooting incident

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted June 15, 2011, at 5:51 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The Searsport police chief divulged new information this week about the incident on June 8 that culminated with a Belfast police officer shooting an armed man.

The situation began when an officer from Searsport noticed a vehicle driving by with a noisier-than-usual exhaust pipe, Searsport Police Chief Richard LaHaye.

When Officer Eric Marcel, who was on a routine patrol, saw that the vehicle also was missing its plate light, he decided to pull it over.

But Benjamin Thompson, 26, of Swanville, refused to stop, LaHaye said.

Marcel followed him, but did not engage the siren.

Thompson did stop for police at about midnight near the intersection of Route 141 and Smart Road in Belfast. But he emerged from his car with a shotgun in hand and did not put it down when ordered to do so by police.

Officer Dan Fitzpatrick of the Belfast Police Department then shot Thompson, who since has been recovering at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. A hospital official said Wednesday afternoon that Thompson’s condition has been upgraded to stable.

Fitzpatrick was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is now being investigated by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Belfast Police Chief Jeff Trafton said Wednesday that the department will have a critical incident debrief on Thursday. It was the first such police shooting in Belfast in at least 35 years, he said.

According to Trafton, video cameras in two police cruisers captured the incident. Those recordings are among the evidence being sent to the attorney general’s office.

“I have it on video — the officer followed his training to the letter,” Trafton said. “There’s just no reason to believe that it wasn’t justified.”

He said that officials from the Attorney General’s Office have said that the department should not expect the report to be completed anytime soon.

Because of that, and the video showing what happened, Trafton said that he will not hold Fitzpatrick on administrative leave until the report comes in.

“I can’t find any reason to believe my officer did not follow proper procedure,” Trafton said.

Fitzpatrick is expected to be back on duty within a few days, the Belfast chief said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/15/news/midcoast/police-describe-lead-up-to-belfast-shooting-incident/ printed on September 16, 2014