Maine attorney general rules that state trooper was justified to shoot man in Searsmont

Posted April 11, 2014, at 1:04 p.m.
Leonard Maker
Courtesy of Waldo County Jail
Leonard Maker

SEARSMONT, Maine — A Maine State Police trooper was justified in using deadly force last September when he shot and injured a Waldo County man while in the process of serving him an out-of-state protection from abuse order, the Maine Attorney General’s Office has concluded.

Two troopers had been searching for Leonard E. Maker on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, when they learned that he was staying at his late father’s house on New England Road in Searsmont. Maker had recently lost his job, and his wife and child had left Maine to move to Maryland, where they sought a protection order against him. A Waldo County Sheriff’s Office deputy told Trooper James R. MacDonald that he felt Maker was potentially suicidal or assaultive, according to the report on the use of deadly force that was issued Friday morning by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.

MacDonald and Trooper Desiree Wuthenow made a plan to approach Maker with the Maryland protection order and multiple warrants for his arrest on other charges. Wuthenow went to the front door and MacDonald to the rear of the residence. Wuthenow made contact with Maker through a small opening in the front door where a pane of glass previously had been removed, according to the report. The troopers tried without success to get Maker to come outside, telling him there were multiple warrants for his arrest and he needed to leave the home.

But Maker refused, telling MacDonald that he needed to get a drink of water before coming out. The trooper told Maker he needed to stay in sight, and if Maker didn’t come outside, the police would come in, the report stated. Maker left the doorway anyway, and MacDonald tried with difficulty to kick the door open. He later learned that the door had been screwed to the door frame.

“Upon forcing the door open, Trooper MacDonald was immediately confronted in a kitchen area by Mr. Maker pointing a shotgun at him,” the attorney general’s report stated. “Trooper MacDonald described Mr. Maker as being so close that he could have touched the shotgun.”

MacDonald left the kitchen, firing four rounds from his .45 caliber handgun in the direction of Maker. One round hit his hand and also struck and shattered the wooden stock on Maker’s shotgun. When MacDonald then heard what he believed was the shotgun hitting the floor, he went back in the house and saw Maker was getting to his feet.

“Trooper MacDonald ordered Mr. Maker to the floor and Mr. Maker pointed to his own chest and told Trooper MacDonald to shoot him, then pointed to another firearm leaning against a wall,” the report continued. “While Trooper Wuthenow secured the shotgun, Trooper MacDonald struggled with Mr. Maker in an attempt to move him away from the second firearm in the room.”

At one point, MacDonald used pepper spray in an attempt to control Maker, the report stated.

Eventually, the trooper was able to push Maker out of the house, where the police restrained him on the front lawn. They discovered then that Maker had been shot in the hand. An arriving game warden provided medical aid and Maker was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

Maker later was indicted by a Waldo County grand jury on felony charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct with a firearm. He also was indicted on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to submit to arrest.

The attorney general investigates any incident in which a law enforcement officer uses deadly force in the performance of his or her duties.

In order to make the determination, the attorney general’s office investigated the scene and also did interviews with people including Maker, the report said.

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.

 

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