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Maine attorney general rules police justified in Calais shooting

Posted Dec. 13, 2013, at 3:49 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 13, 2013, at 7:53 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Calais police were justified when they shot and wounded a local man holding a woman and infant hostage in his home last summer, according to a report issued by Maine’s attorney general Friday.

Daniel Pinney, 26, later took his own life by shooting himself, authorities said. An autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner showed that the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, according to the attorney general’s report. Pinney also was struck by three bullets fired by one of two police officers who fired at him.

The incident began on July 3 when Pinney confronted Megan Sherrard, 21, also of Calais, in the parking lot of a doctor’s office and forced her and her 6-week-old son, Luca, to return with him to his house, according to police.

When the woman and infant failed to show up at the doctor’s appointment, police were called. Because Sherrard had previously taken out a protection from abuse order against Pinney, police went to his home.

According to the attorney general’s report, Sgt. John Preston knocked on the storm door to Pinney’s home and saw Sherrard carrying a baby and running toward the door. Preston tried to open the storm door, but it was locked from the inside. Sherrard was able to open the door from the inside at the same time that Pinney shot her in the back.

Preston grabbed Sherrard, who was still holding her baby, and pulled her out of the doorway. Preston drew his handgun and began shooting at Pinney, who was 10 feet away inside the home. Upon hearing the gunfire, Officer Joseph Bartlett, who was outside, also shot at Pinney. Preston pulled Sherrard, who was wounded, away from the building to safety. Bartlett took the baby, who was wounded in the foot, outside the building.

The officers then determined that Pinney was dead, according to the report. Preston provided emergency medical aid to Sherrard until emergency medical technicians arrived.

Sherrard suffered four gunshot wounds; two bullets struck her back, exited her chest, and then entered an arm. The child suffered wounds to an ear and foot, most likely as the bullets passed through Sherrard. Preston suffered a grazing bullet wound to a hand from a shot fired by Pinney.

Both Sherrard and the baby survived, according to the report.

The entire incident, from the time Preston knocked on the door until the shooting ceased, was over in 15 seconds.

The report included that on May 16, 2013, a week before the birth of her son, Sherrard reported that Pinney had threatened her, resulting in his arrest. Two days later, Calais District Court issued a protection from abuse order against Pinney, which prohibited him from having any contact with her.

A second protection from abuse order was later issued against Pinney prohibiting him from having any contact with the baby. Both orders included a provision that prohibited Pinney from possessing a firearm.

The autopsy conducted by the state medical examiner found that Pinney was struck twice in the chest and once in the arm by three of the .45-caliber rounds fired by Preston. Pinney died as a result of a wound to the head from a single 9 mm round. Pinney was the only person armed with a 9 mm weapon.

The medical examiner’s office concluded that Pinney killed himself by shooting himself in the head. Pinney’s blood-alcohol content at the time of his death was 0.23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit.

Attorney General Janet T. Mills concluded that at the time Preston and Bartlett fired their weapons at Pinney, they reasonably believed he was using unlawful deadly force against them, Sherrard and her baby, and it was reasonable for the officers to use deadly force to protect themselves and others, the report stated.

Maine’s attorney general investigates any shooting involving a law enforcement officer who fires his or her weapon while acting in the performance of his or her duties, according to Tim Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

There have been 96 shootings involving police officers in Maine investigated by the attorney general’s office since 1995, 46 of which were fatal. Excluding five open investigations, all the shootings have been ruled justified, according to data provided by the AG’s office.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

BDN Metro and Standards Editor Michael J. Dowd and writer Tim Cox contributed to this report.

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