Attorney general finds trooper was justified when he shot at vehicle

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 03, 2013, at 5:29 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s attorney general has ruled that a state police trooper who shot at a vehicle in southern Maine after the driver allegedly tried to run down the officer following a brief pursuit was justified in firing his weapon. No one was injured in the incident.

On the evening of Sept. 15, Maine State Police Trooper Kyle Wells noticed a silver Honda Coupe with an expired registration sticker passing through the toll booth in Scarborough in the southbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike, Attorney General William Schneider said in a report released Thursday.

Wells, who was in uniform and standing outside his cruiser, signaled for the driver, Matthew Cole, 23, of Portland, to pull the vehicle over.

Instead, Cole sped off, according to police. Wells ran to his cruiser to pursue the Honda. As the Honda continued southbound, Wells watched the vehicle weave in and out of traffic until Cole tried to leave the turnpike at Exit 42. When Wells followed onto the exit ramp, he saw airborne dirt and debris, and found the Honda had gone off the road and into a shallow gully.

The trooper stopped his cruiser and approached the Honda with his sidearm drawn, ordering Cole to shut off the engine and step out of the car.

Cole put the car in reverse and began to rapidly back up in the trooper’s direction, in an apparent attempt to get back onto the ramp and continue to flee, according to Schneider’s report.

“Observing the vehicle coming toward him and also fearing that the vehicle would attempt to flee in the wrong direction on the ramp in the path of several other occupied vehicles, Trooper Wells fired several rounds at the vehicle in an attempt to disable it,” Schneider wrote.

The vehicle was about six feet from Wells when he fired the shots while attempting to back away from the car, according to the report.

After Wells fired the shots, Cole stopped the vehicle and submitted to arrest. He was charged with reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, attempting to elude a police officer, criminal speed and violation of probation.

“It was reasonable for Trooper Wells to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him, and it was reasonable for Trooper Wells to believe that it was necessary to use deadly force — shooting at the vehicle in attempt to disable it — to protect himself from imminent threat of deadly force posed against him by Mr. Cole’s action,” Schneider said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/03/news/portland/attorney-general-finds-trooper-was-justified-when-he-shot-at-vehicle/ printed on December 26, 2014