An investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s Office has determined that a Belfast officer was justified in shooting a man in June of 2011 after that individual reportedly confronted the officer with a shotgun and refused to put it down.

Late on the night of June 8, 2011, 26-year-old Benjamin Thompson of Swanville was “shot and seriously wounded in Belfast by Belfast police officer Daniel Fitzpatrick during an armed confrontation following a vehicle chase that started in Searsport,” according to a press release issued by the attorney general’s office Tuesday afternoon.

That shooting, according to the press release, was the culmination of a series of events that began earlier that night in Searsport, when Officer Eric Marcel reportedly tried to stop a dark-colored Jeep Cherokee on Brock Road for a loud exhaust and a plate light that was out. As Marcel followed the vehicle, two Belfast officers — Fitzpatrick and Matthew Cook — learned of what was taking place and headed to an intersection they believed the Jeep Cherokee might pass through.

Shortly after arriving, the Belfast officers saw a dark-colored sport utility vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed, according to the press release. Suspecting it was the vehicle in question, both officers headed to their cruisers so that they could pursue it.

The vehicle initially failed to stop, the press release reported, and was traveling above the posted speed limit. It eventually did stop at the intersection of Smart Road and Route 141 (Swan Lake Avenue).

“Officer Fitzpatrick quickly got out of his cruiser and observed the driver of the Jeep, later identified as Benjamin Thompson, lunge from the vehicle with what Officer Fitzpatrick believed was a rifle,” the press release reported. Fitzpatrick then “retreated to the space between his cruiser and its open door while ordering the driver to ‘put your hands up,’ and firing several shots until Mr. Thompson fell to the ground.”

Cook, according to the press release, was getting out of his vehicle when he heard Fitzpatrick’s command and “the sound of three or four gunshots.” Cook then covered Fitzpatrick while Fitzpatrick secured the weapon Thompson had reportedly brandished. It was later determined that weapon was a “.20 gauge loaded shotgun that was cocked and ready to fire when Mr. Thompson bounded from the Jeep Cherokee,” according to the press release.

Once the weapon was secured, Cook — assisted by Waldo County Sheriff’s Office personnel, who by that time had arrived at the scene — handcuffed Thompson, who according to the press release “was combative and implored the officers to kill him.” Thompson was treated at the scene by police and ambulance personnel, then taken to a Bangor hospital for treatment of his wounds.

In the course of its investigation, the attorney general’s office determined that Fitzpatrick fired a total of four shots at Thompson and that two of those shots struck Thompson. According to the press release, Thompson sustained gunshot wounds to his abdomen and upper left leg.

The press release stated that “portions of the event were recorded on a video camera in Officer Fitzpatrick’s cruiser.” Investigators were able to determine that eight seconds elapsed between the time Thompson’s vehicle stopped at the intersection and the time that Fitzpatrick fired at Thompson. The distance between the two men, according to the press release, was 15 to 20 feet.

According to the press release, Attorney General William J. Schneider concluded that it was “reasonable for Officer Fitzpatrick to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him, and it was reasonable for Officer Fitzpatrick to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself from the imminent threat of deadly force posed by Mr. Thompson’s actions.”

The press release reports that those are the two requirements that must be met by any person — whether a law enforcement officer, or a private citizen — under Maine law for them to be justified in using deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others: “First, the person must reasonably believe that deadly force is imminently threatened against the person or someone else, and, second, the person must reasonably believe that deadly force is necessary to counter that imminent threat.”

The determination of whether an officer is justified in using deadly force is “based on the totality of the particular circumstances,” according to the press release, “and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.”

Among the facts and circumstances that must be judged, according to the press release, are the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

In this particular case, the attorney general’s office reported that its findings were based on “extensive scene investigation, interviews with numerous individuals, and review of all evidence made available from any source.” The attorney general’s office was assisted in its investigation by personnel from the Maine State Police, Waldo County Sheriff’s Office and Belfast Police Department. The Belfast Police Department, according to the press release, “cooperated fully with the investigation” and “later conducted its own internal review of the shooting.”

Thompson, according to court records, will likely go to trial in April on charges stemming from the June 2011 incident. Those charges include criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, threatening display of a weapon, keeping a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, operating under the influence (with one prior conviction) and failure to stop for a police officer.

Thompson was arrested on those charges in late June of 2011, after he had been released from the hospital. He has reportedly been free on bail since the day after his arrest, and must check in with Volunteers of America personnel at the Waldo County Jail on a regular basis. Additionally, he must also adhere to a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew until his case is resolved.