Attorney General Janet T. Mills concluded Maine State Police Trooper Corey Smith acted within the law when he wounded Matthew Sylvester, 24, with a single gunshot early Dec. 17, 2009, in Searsport.

The finding was announced in a press release from the Attorney General’s Office April 16.

The Attorney General is charged by law with investigating any law enforcement officer who uses deadly force while acting in the performance of that officer’s duties.

The function of the Attorney General’s investigation is to determine whether self-defense or defense of others, or other legal justification as defined in the Maine Criminal Code, is reasonably generated on the facts so as to preclude criminal prosecution.

The review does not include whether there might be any civil liability, whether any administrative action is warranted, or whether the use of deadly force could have been avoided at all costs.

Under Maine law, for an individual to be justified in using deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of others, two requirements must be met: First, the individual must reasonably believe deadly force is imminently threatened against the individual or against someone else and, second, the individual must reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.

In addition, a law enforcement officer is allowed to use deadly force to effect an arrest or prevent an escape when the officer reasonably believes a person has committed a crime involving the use or threatened the use of deadly force or the person is likely to seriously endanger human life or inflict serious bodily injury unless apprehended without delay.

The Attorney General’s investigation and analysis concluded Smith, a member of the Thomaston-based Troop D, reasonably believed unlawful deadly force was imminently threatened by Sylvester against others, including Sgt. Steven Saucier of the Searsport Police Department, and that Smith reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to protect others from such imminent threat of deadly force.

The Attorney General’s investigation also determined that Smith reasonably believed Sylvester had committed a crime involving the use of deadly force, and that he was likely to seriously endanger human life unless apprehended without delay.

The Attorney General reported the following findings:

At 2:21 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, a 911 caller reported Sylvester had shot Richard Brown several times outside a vehicle near the North Searsport Fire Department. The caller, who was hysterical and requested immediate help, said Sylvester was at the scene and was armed with a .40 caliber Glock pistol. The caller was heard demanding that Sylvester give him the gun. While dispatching police to the scene, the caller indicated Sylvester had left with a woman in a red Jeep.

About six minutes after the initial 911 report, Smith was dispatched from his home to the call. He was told a man had been shot and the victim and suspect, who still had a gun, were at the scene.

Smith received additional information while driving to the scene that included the names of people involved, and that Sylvester was in possession of a Glock handgun. Smith learned Sylvester had left in a red Jeep and was possibly going to a residence in Frankfort, where Sylvester would have access to a red 1994 Ford Thunderbird.

Smith drove to the residence in Frankfort but did not locate the red Jeep or red Thunderbird. He spoke with two individuals in a nearby residence, who said they believed Sylvester had left about 10 minutes prior to Smith’s arrival.

The individuals told Smith that Sylvester left “spinning his tires.” The individuals provided vague information about the location of the Searsport residence of Sylvester’s father. The person who had made the initial 911 call in North Searsport called the residence and spoke with Smith. The caller said he was present when Sylvester, who had been drinking, shot Brown “four or five times.” Smith also learned that when Sylvester left the shooting scene he was in the company of a woman in a red Jeep who lived in Belfast.

Based on this information, Smith radioed other officers that Sylvester was likely either in the company of the woman in the red Jeep or at his father’s residence in Searsport. Smith then learned that the woman and the red Jeep were at the woman’s residence in Belfast and Sylvester was not with her. Smith started searching for the red Thunderbird. About an hour had elapsed since the initial 911 call.

Smith, joined by Saucier of the Searsport Police, went to Sylvester’s father’s Searsport home, which is located several hundred feet from the street. They used the cover of darkness to approach the house on foot. They could see lights on in the house. As they approached, the officers observed a truck and a maroon Ford Thunderbird in the driveway.

Smith noticed lights “flicker” in the house. Concerned they had been seen, the officers retreated a few feet and took up a position of concealment behind a large tree. Both officers called their respective agencies to report they had located the red Ford Thunderbird. The officers decided to wait for additional officers before attempting contact with Sylvester.

Saucier returned to his cruiser several hundred feet away to get his patrol rifle and hand warmers. Smith moved to a location that provided him a better view of the home. He observed an upstairs light go off. Smith heard what he believed to be someone walking in the snow near the outside of the house and heard a car door close. Suspecting Sylvester had entered the parked car, Smith yelled a warning to Saucier.

Smith watched as someone started the red Thunderbird, illuminated the headlights, backed up and started driving down the driveway toward his location. Smith yelled a second warning to Saucier. As the red Thunderbird approached Smith, who was standing in the driveway, he illuminated the vehicle with his flashlight and observed the driver as the only occupant.

As the vehicle got closer, Smith identified himself and ordered the driver to stop. The vehicle accelerated slightly. Smith gave another command of “State Police, stop!” but the driver was not responsive. As the vehicle continued down the driveway, Smith moved slightly to avoid being struck by it. The vehicle turned slightly to the right as if to drive by Smith.

As the vehicle was abreast of Smith, with the aid of his flashlight, he could see the driver was holding a black handgun. He recognized from his training and experience it was a Glock pistol, pointed toward the center console of the car.

Smith was approximately three feet from the driver’s door of the car. Smith fired two rounds from his handgun at the driver. The vehicle stopped and the driver screamed, “You shot me.”

Smith ordered the driver to show his hands and the driver stuck them out of the window. Smith ordered the driver out of the car. The driver opened the door and did as requested. The driver identified himself as Matthew Sylvester and said his gun was in the car. Officers provided first aid to Sylvester until emergency medical personnel arrived, treated him and took him to a hospital.

At the hospital, Sylvester was treated for a gunshot wound to the upper left arm and released.

A Waldo County grand jury indicted Sylvester Feb. 11 on charges related to the alleged Dec. 17, 2009, shooting of Brown in North Searsport. Brown survived the shooting.

Detectives from the Attorney General’s Office went to the scene of the shooting to conduct an investigation into the use of deadly force by Smith. They were assisted by the Maine State Police. The Maine State Police cooperated fully with the investigation and conducted its own internal review of the incident.