A sign for the now-defunct Millinocket Police Department. Maine police have fatally shot 26 people since 2015, giving the state the highest rate of fatal police shootings in New England. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine has seen more than double the number of police shootings this year than it saw in all of 2020 following fatal shootings within the past week in Falmouth and Augusta.

There have been 11 police shootings so far this year, equal to the amount the state saw in 2017, when fatal encounters between police and Mainers surged.

Eight police-citizen encounters this year so far have been fatal — four more than last year, and close to 2017’s total of nine, according to the state attorney general’s office. While the number is high for Maine historically, a criminal justice expert cautioned against drawing conclusions because the number is still small.

The latest fatal shooting happened about 5:47 p.m. Tuesday, when Falmouth police shot and killed a man at the intersection of Lunt and Middle roads. The officers and man haven’t been publicly identified yet, but the attorney general’s office is investigating. 

Before then, the latest fatal shooting had taken place last Wednesday, when police killed Dustin Paradis, 34, outside an Augusta homeless shelter. The shooting happened after Sgt. Chris Blodgett and Officer Sebastian Guptill were called to 155 Hospital St. due to reports of a man who was threatening people with a knife.

Shelter residents and Paradis’ mother told the Kennebec Journal that the 34-year-old had autism and may have been off his medication at the time.

Just four days earlier, on Oct. 9, Portland Officer Nevin Rand shot and injured Edward Hyman, 42, during a suspected burglary on Oxford Street. Hyman has since been charged with criminal threatening and resisting arrest.

The three recent shootings are under investigation by the Maine attorney general’s office, spokesperson Marc Malon said, in accordance with state law governing police use of deadly force. In total, there are 19 open cases that the attorney general’s office is investigating, he said. The Tuesday night shooting  brings that number to 20.

The attorney general has investigated each case since 1990, but has never found an officer unjustified in using lethal force.  

George Shaler, a criminologist at the University of Southern Maine’s Cutler Institute, said the 2021 shooting numbers were concerning but cautioned against drawing any conclusions.

“Statistically speaking, it does seem like a big jump,” he said of the increase between 2020 and 2021. “Even though it’s double, the numbers are still so small.”

The cases are disparate in how they started and which police departments were involved. In seven of the 11 shootings, the person who was shot reportedly had a weapon or had an armed standoff with police. One involved a police chase. Two people took their own lives after police shot them, which the attorney general’s office includes in its tally of deadly police encounters.

The latest available crime data for Maine are from 2019, so it’s difficult to know if there were trends that would explain an increase in lethal police-citizen encounters, such as a corresponding increase in reported crimes between 2020 and 2021, Shaler said.

Between 2018 and 2019, for example, the number of violent crimes reported increased by 3.1 percent, Shaler said, driven by an uptick in the number of reported rapes.

Those numbers don’t discern whether there was an increase in such crimes being committed or if people now feel more comfortable reporting rapes due to shifts in attitude, he said.  

The Maine Department of Public Safety is expected to release its 2020 Crime in Maine report sometime later this month or early November, spokesperson Shannon Moss said.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.