District attorney declines prosecution in Warren shooting
Rockland — The Knox County District Attorney's office has cleared a 19-year-old man of responsibility of an August shooting in Warren.
Knox County District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said Thursday, Sept. 20, in a news release that the state would not be able to meet the burden of proof under Maine law and that the decision to decline prosecution is based "exclusively on the application of Maine law to the event constituting the use of deadly force."
Because no charges are being brought, the district attorney's office is withholding the names of the three individuals in the case from the public.
Rushlau also has commended Lt. Reginald Walker from the Knox County Sheriff's Office for his decision to defer making an arrest. Although an arrest would have been lawful, the DA's office said in a news release, Walker "exercised an appropriate degree of discretion when he concluded that public safety would not be compromised while he completed his investigation," according to the news release.
At 1:30 a.m., Aug. 7, the sheriff's office responded to a shooting incident in Warren. The officers learned that a 47-year-old male had a gunshot wound through the upper portion of his chest.
The shooting was investigated by Walker with assistance from other deputies. Walker reviewed his findings with Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald that morning. They agreed that an immediate arrest was not appropriate and that once the investigation was completed, it would be submitted for review by the district attorney's office, said the news release.
Rushlau and Fernald have now reviewed the investigator's report, along with additional information obtained Aug. 27, said the release.
The shooting occurred at the residence of a 65-year-old male. The man's son, 19, a college student in another state, stays with his father when not in school. The third person present, the 47-year-old man, had been a guest at the residence for a period of time, said the release.
During the day and evening, the two older men were drinking. The guest became intoxicated and argumentative, said the report. The arguments eventually became physical.
The 19-year-old tried to ignore the arguing, but when it became physical he intervened to protect his father. The guest responded by threatening to kill the young man.
The guest became more violent and irrational, which frightened the 19-year-old, the report said. Eventually he took a .357-caliber revolver his father kept loaded in a closet. The young man pointed the gun at the guest and told him to leave his father alone and to leave the residence.
The 47-year-old jumped up and stepped toward the 19-year-old, and again threatened to kill him. The youth believed his life was in danger and fired the handgun once, striking the older man in the chest, and he fell.
The youth checked on his father, then used his father's cell phone to call 911. He told the communications officer what had just happened, and asked for police and an ambulance. He said the guest was alive, breathing and moving.
The communications officer told the young man to unload and secure the handgun, the report said. When he tried to, the guest became aggressive again, despite the wound, and had to be restrained by the homeowner.
The young man remained on an open line with the communications officer until deputies arrived, and then followed instructions on how to leave in an nonthreatening manner. Deputies located the weapon and secured the scene pending Walker's arrival.
Walker promptly interviewed the father and his son and found their accounts consistent. Walker said he had to defer his interview with the 47-year-old until Aug. 10 because of the injury and resulting treatment. The guest was interviewed at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where he had been transported after first going to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, the report said.
The guest told Walker he had no memory of the shooting, but remembered drinking and arguments. He said he did not remember any physical contact or that he had threatened to kill anyone, according to the report.
The man told Walker that the 19-year-old should not be charged and that he was a "very good boy."
A blood sample obtained by medical authorities confirmed that the guest was "extremely intoxicated," with an alcohol level more than three times the legal limit for operation of a vehicle, the report said.
Rushlau wrote that the "decision on whether to effect an immediate arrest, or to defer arrest, can be a difficult one."
He praised Walker for his "appropriate degree of discretion."
Courier Publications reporter George Chappell can be reached at 207-594-4401, ext. 117, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.