The fatal shooting of a 57-year-old man last January by a Waldoboro police officer was justified, the Attorney General’s Office said.
The Jan. 5 report cleared Officer John Lash of any wrongdoing or future criminal prosecution after he exchanged gunfire with and killed Jon Alspaugh while responding to a domestic disturbance call on Jan. 22, 2017. Lash was also shot on the right side of his chest, although his bulletproof vest absorbed most of the impact, the report states.
“It is our determination that when Officer Lash shot Mr. Alspaugh, he reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force against him was not only imminent but had in fact already been used against him,” the report states. “It was reasonable for Officer Lash to believe it necessary to use deadly force to protect himself from further injury or death.”
The AG’s office investigates every time a law enforcement officer uses deadly force. It has never found an officer’s use of force unjustified. All reports are public.
The Waldoboro report, signed by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, provides a narrative of events that shed greater detail on the shooting than has previously been made public.
Just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2017, Lash responded in uniform to a 911 call for domestic disturbance at Alspaugh’s home on River Bend Road, the report states. Sgt. Jamie Wilson also responded, according to the Lincoln County News, although Wilson is not named in the report.
The dispatcher who took the call overheard Alspaugh’s wife yelling “Please stop, please stop” in the background, the report said. The caller, whom the report did not identify, told dispatch that Alspaugh kept firearms in his house.
When he arrived, Lash met Alspaugh’s wife — who is not named in the report — outside the house, where she told him her husband has assaulted her and threatened to kill her, according to the report. Lash then entered the house and was confronted by Alspaugh, who came “within arm’s length” of him before pulling a small handgun from his back pocket. Lash then backed away and Alspaugh shot at him three times, the report said.
Lash was struck once, and fired back, hitting Alspaugh six times and killing him, the report said. Lash was treated and released for his injury at LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus & Hospital in Damariscotta, according to the Lincoln County News.
The central question that the AG’s office considers is whether the officer in question believed that deadly force was necessary to save themselves — or others — from being killed or wounded. Investigators base that on what they believe a reasonable person would do in the situation.
The investigation does not consider whether the use of deadly force could have been averted, or whether the officer is open to a civil suit.
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.