The Oakfield Thriftway is pictured on May 7, 2018. Credit: Jen Lynds

HOULTON, Maine — The Maine attorney general’s office has found that Maine State Police Sgt. Chadwick Fuller was justified when he fatally shot 54-year-old John Corneil of Merrill outside a grocery store in Oakfield in 2018.

There was a warrant out for Corneil’s arrest when state troopers, including Fuller, approached Corneil when he was leaving Oakfield Thriftway supermarket.

Corneil was described by the troopers as acting “agitated” and “escalating” as well as making nonsensical statements, according to the report filed by Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey. Fuller then told Corneil he was under arrest.

Corneil reached into his jacket and pulled out what Fuller said he believed to be a full-size Beretta model handgun, according to the report. After yelling at Corneil multiple times to drop the gun, Fuller fired five shots at Corneil, causing him to drop to the ground. After being taken to the hospital, Corneil died the next day, from shotgun wounds. The gun he possessed was found to be a pellet gun.

But descriptions of the pellet gun by Corneil’s neighbors — who reported being threatened by Corneil at an earlier date, which led to the arrest warrant — as well as by Corneil’s mother showed how the pellet gun, which was also a Beretta model, appeared to be indistinguishable from a genuine firearm. The report also said that officers had learned that Corneil, who was a convicted felon and prohibited from possessing firearms, had continued to own guns as recently as two years prior to the 2018 incident.

Those accounts persuaded the attorney general’s office that Fuller was justified when shooting Corneil.

“It is our determination that when Sgt. Fuller shot Mr. Corneil, he reasonably believed that Mr. Corneil presented an imminent threat of unlawful deadly force against him and others in the immediate vicinity,” wrote Frey in the report. “All the facts and circumstances point to the conclusion that Sgt. Fuller acted in self-defense and the defense of others.”