April 24, 2019
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Trainees involved in shooting at police academy violated rules, director says

The Cumberland County corrections officers who had a personal gun that discharged and injured an Aroostook County corrections officer Tuesday violated the rules of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy where they were being trained, said academy director John Rogers.

The three corrections officers were in week four of a five-week basic corrections training Tuesday when Matthew Morrison of Mars Hill was accidentally shot in the leg as they were driving from the academy’s parking lot.

“It’s against academy rules to have guns on campus,” Rogers said in an interview Wednesday. “Firearms training is not a part of the basic corrections training program.”

Only law enforcement officers are trained in firearms at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and only police officers are allowed to bring guns on the academy grounds, the director said.

Investigations of the incident are underway by the Maine State Police and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, which employs the two corrections officers at the Cumberland County Jail. It is not clear when those investigations will be completed.

The two Cumberland County corrections officers have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigations.

Morrison, 33, was taken by ambulance to MaineGeneral in Augusta Tuesday and later was flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Rogers said that Morrison had surgery Tuesday night. No further information on his condition was available as of Wednesday afternoon.

According to Stephen McCausland, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman, Morrison was shot accidentally by trainee Matthew Benger, 24, of Portland, in the truck of Cody Gillis, 25, of Brunswick. Morrison was sitting in the back seat of the truck as they were driving off the academy campus on an errand.

Benger and Gillis both work for the Cumberland County Jail, and the gun, a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, belonged to Gillis, said Rogers.

Rogers said both Benger and Gillis face potential violations stemming from the incident, Gillis for bringing the firearm on the campus and Benger for handling it.

Benger and Gillis were hired at the Cumberland County Jail in April and Morrison was hired at the Aroostook County Jail last November, Rogers said.

Maine law allows corrections officers to begin work before full certification and to complete basic training within one year of hiring, he said.

The 26 other corrections officer cadets in the cohort are set to graduate from the basic training on June 26, and still have to pass an exam for full certification. Rogers said he has not decided whether Benger and Gillis will be allowed to complete the training and will wait for the results of the two investigations.

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