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The Maine attorney general’s office has cleared four officers in the February 2020 shooting death of an Auburn man in Minot.
Androscoggin County sheriff’s Deputies Sgt. Jon Guay, Matthew Noyes and Darian Nadeau and Mechanic Falls police Sgt. Alfred Daigle were justified when they fatally shot 44-year-old Jason A. Gora during an armed confrontation on Feb. 22, according to an investigator’s report made public Wednesday.
The Maine attorney general’s office investigates all cases when police use deadly force in the state.
The sequence of events leading up the fatal encounter between Gora and the officers began at 1:35 p.m. on Jan. 31, when Gora’s father asked police to check on his estranged son’s well-being after he posted suicidal comments on Facebook.
But officers did not find Gora at the Hebron address listed on his driver’s license or at another address his father suggested in Auburn.
Later that day, about 4 p.m., Gora’s brother and three friends found him sitting in his 1997 Jeep Wrangler with a handgun in his lap in Auburn. When they tried to get the weapon from him, Gora sped away, nearly striking one of the friends.
Further attempts to locate Gora on Jan. 31 were unsuccessful.
Police later found on Gora’s cellphone numerous text messages to people between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 in which he talked about killing himself and accused them of telling the police.
“The text messages included references to setting a stage for police to shoot him, one included a picture of Mr. Gora holding the barrel of a semi-automatic handgun in his mouth,” investigators wrote in the report.
A police officer finally made contact with Gora at 6:25 p.m. Feb. 2, and the officer tried to convince him to go to the Auburn Police Department or a hospital. When the officer asked where he was, an “agitated” Gora told the officer to “come find me … and see what happens” before hanging up, according to the report.
Gora’s girlfriend, who reported that he “freaked out” after a recent argument, told the officer she feared Gora would try to provoke police to kill him, which the officer related to the units in the area.
Not long after, about 7:45 p.m., Gora’s girlfriend told police that his brother had found him again and managed to get the handgun away from him. Then about 8 p.m., she told police that Gora was ready to go to the Auburn police station to “turn himself in.”
But minutes later Guay, of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, radioed that Noyes had tried to pull over Gora’s Jeep but he sped away down Minot Avenue in Auburn toward Minot at speeds reaching up to 80 mph. Guay, Noyes and Nadeau then began to pursue him, investigators found.
Daigle, of the Mechanic Falls Police Department, stopped in the Minot Post Office parking lot where he intended to set up spike mats to stop Gora. But moments after parking there, Gora’s Jeep appeared from around the corner with the other officers in pursuit, crossed the centerline and hit his cruiser nearly head-on. The impact spun Daigle’s cruiser around, and Gora’s heavily damaged Jeep came to a stop in the road.
Guay, Noyes and Nadeau joined Daigle in the road, where they observed Gora moving about inside the damaged Jeep. Gora was spotted reaching for something inside the Jeep and ignored commands to not move and show his hands. Gora then got out of the Jeep and ran down the road, with the four officers giving chase, according to the report.
He ran through a field and into a parking lot, where he stumbled and turned to face the officers, who saw him holding what they initially believed to be a firearm but was later found to be a Kukri-style machete, according to investigators.
All four officers “believed Mr. Gora was threatening their life and the lives of the other officers” and opened fire, hitting him several times. First-aid was rendered to Gora “to no avail,” and he died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, an autopsy found. A high level of methamphetamine was also found in Gora’s system at the time of his death.
Investigators concluded the four officers were “reasonable” in their fear that Gora was threatening their lives and that it was “necessary” to use deadly force.