Attorney general clears state police trooper involved in Searsmont shooting
Searsmont — The Maine Attorney General's Office released a report regarding the trooper shooting of a Searsmont man in September 2013 that determined police were justified in using deadly force.
On Sept. 20, 2013, trooper James MacDonald was attempting to serve a protection from abuse order on Leonard E. Maker, 42, who was believed to be living in Northport or Searsmont. MacDonald was advised by a Waldo County Sheriff's deputy prior to serving the protection order that Maker was potentially suicidal or assaultive, according to the report.
MacDonald also discovered that Maker had multiple warrants for his arrest.
While another trooper, Desiree Wuthenow, was collecting documents associated with the protection order and the arrest warrants, MacDonald checked at a residence in Northport, but determined no one was home.
MacDonald spoke with a neighbor, who was Maker's mother, who informed him that Maker was staying at his father's home on New England Road in Searsmont, the report states.
MacDonald then met with Wuthenow to brief her on the information he had gathered and to discuss a plan for approaching Maker. Wuthenow had previously driven past the Searsmont residence to familiarize herself with the location and to determine if there were any vehicles in the driveway.
When the two troopers arrived at the Searsmont residence, Wuthenow approached the front door and MacDonald walked to the rear of the residence. Both troopers were dressed in uniform and drove to the residence in marked cruisers.
Wuthenow was able to speak with Maker through a small opening in the front door where a pane of glass had been previously removed. The glass portion of the door was covered with a curtain and Maker moved the curtain aside to speak with Wuthenow, according to the report.
At the rear of the building, MacDonald could hear the conversation between Wuthenow and Maker and he then returned to the front of the residence. While speaking with Maker, Wuthenow attempted to get Maker to come outside, without success, at which point MacDonald also attempted to talk to Maker to get him to exit the residence.
MacDonald explained to Maker he had multiple warrants for his arrest and that he needed to come outside.
After refusing to exit the residence and while still speaking with both troopers at the door, Maker told MacDonald he needed to get a drink of water, the report states. MacDonald told Maker he did not want him to leave his sight and that if Maker did not leave the home, the troopers would enter the residence.
Maker left the door and also closed the curtain. MacDonald then attempted to open by the door by kicking it, but encountered difficulty.
Once the door was forced open, MacDonald was immediately confronted in the kitchen area by Maker, who was pointing a shotgun at him. MacDonald described Maker as being close enough that he could have touched the shotgun, the report states.
MacDonald retreated from the kitchen and fired multiple rounds from his .45-caliber handgun in the direction of Maker, according to the report. Wuthenow, thinking Maker might attempt to escape through the rear of the residence, ran around the back of the home, but then ran back to the front when she heard MacDonald order Maker to get down on the floor.
When MacDonald heard what he thought was Maker's shotgun hitting the floor, he entered the home again and saw Maker getting to his feet. MacDonald ordered Maker to the floor and Maker pointed to his own chest and told MacDonald to shoot him before pointing to another firearm leaning against a wall.
Wuthenow secured the shotgun while MacDonald struggled with Maker in an attempt to move him away from the second firearm in the room. During the struggle, MacDonald used pepper spray in an attempt to control Maker.
MacDonald eventually succeeded in pushing Maker out of the house where he was able to restrain Maker on the front lawn.
At that time, troopers discovered Maker had been shot in the hand and medical aid was provided by a game warden who arrived before Maker was taken to the hospital.
Maker was indicted by a Waldo County Grant Jury on a felony charge of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and reckless conduct with a firearm, as well as a misdemeanor charge of refusing to submit to arrest.
The attorney general's office, which is charged with investigating the circumstances under which any law enforcement officer uses deadly force while performing the officer's duties, found that MacDonald reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened against him and Wuthenow, and that it was reasonable for MacDonald to believe deadly force was necessary to protect himself and Wuthenow.
The attorney general's conclusions are based on an investigation at the scene, interviews with individuals, including Maker, and a review of evidence.
Detectives from the attorney general's office went to the scene of the confrontation to investigate the incident and were assisted by state police detectives and evidence technicians.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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