AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine State Police trooper was justified when he shot and killed a 28-year-old Old Town man last fall, just hours after the man stabbed his pregnant girlfriend to death, Maine’s attorney general has concluded.
Christopher Ouellette called 911 around 6 p.m. Oct. 9 and told dispatchers he had stabbed his girlfriend of seven years, April Haskell, 35, several times in the chest and neck. The couple’s two young children were in the apartment at the time. Haskell was 26 weeks pregnant.
“Children could be heard screaming in the background as Mr. Ouellette, who was frantic, told the dispatcher he did not know if Ms. Haskell was breathing,” according to a report from Maine Attorney General Janet Mills released Monday.
Old Town police, the first to arrive on scene, talked Ouellette into letting the children leave the apartment. Ouellette would only open the door part way, but Old Town police Sgt. Michael Hashey saw a bloody butcher knife in Ouellette’s hand as he talked to him from the other side of the door. Other officers from state police and Orono arrived outside the apartment shortly after, and also saw the knife in Ouellette’s hand as they talked to him through the window.
Police believed Haskell may have still been alive inside the apartment, and wanted to get in to try to save her, Mills said. Police repeatedly asked Ouellette whether Haskell was breathing, and he responded several times that he wasn’t sure or didn’t know.
“Mr. Ouellette repeatedly told Sgt. Hashey that he wanted the police to shoot him and that he did not want to go back to jail,” the report states. Ouellette refused to open the apartment door because he didn’t want to be tasered, according to the report. A Taser is a weapon that delivers an electric shock designed to incapacitate the targeted person.
During the standoff that followed, Maine State Police Trooper Barry Meserve, who was in a nearby parking lot, shot and killed Ouellette after the suspect appeared in a window.
Police made multiple attempts to talk Ouellette into coming out of the apartment. Dispatchers put Ouellette in contact with a counselor over the phone, but Ouellette again said he wanted police to kill him and that he “knew what happened to men in jail who killed pregnant women.”
Ouellette was still worried about being tasered, and reportedly began moving heavy appliances and furniture to blockade the doorway.
Meserve and other officers waited in a parking lot behind the building, with Meserve set up about 75 feet from the third-floor windows of the apartment.
Meserve reportedly overheard officers’ attempts to talk Ouellette into coming out so medical personnel could help. He also heard Ouellette’s repeated refusals.
“Trooper Meserve concluded from the information available to him that there was a possibility that Ms. Haskell was still alive and in need of immediate medical aid,” the report states.
When Ouellette next appeared in the window, Old Town police Detective Jamie Slauenwhite attempted to fire his rifle at him, but the rifle malfunctioned. At almost the same instant, Meserve fired one round from his rifle and saw Ouellette fall.
Police still weren’t able to get in through the door because it was blockaded and had to use a ladder to get into the apartment through a window.
Ouellette was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head, and Haskell was found dead in a bedroom.
Mills announced in a news release Monday morning that at the time Meserve shot Ouellette, “he reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force had been used against Ms. Haskell and that it was reasonable for him to believe that it was necessary to use deadly force to try to save Ms. Haskell’s life.”
The attorney general investigates any incident in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force in the performance of his or her duties.
There have been 96 shootings involving police officers in Maine between 1995 and 2013 investigated by the attorney general’s office, 46 of which were fatal. Excluding a few open investigations, all the shootings have been ruled justified, according to data provided by the attorney general’s office in December.