12/01/2006

Maine AG says shooting by police justified

By David Hench, Staff Writer 
Portland Press Herald

Attorney General Steven Rowe announced on Thursday that the South Portland and Portland police officers who shot a fugitive in October reasonably believed that their lives were in danger and that they needed to shoot him to protect themselves.

The officers had been looking for Terrel Dubois, 22, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was wanted for failing to appear in court on a domestic violence kidnapping charge and who had threatened to kill police if they caught up with him. Plainclothes officers found and confronted him at an apartment on Elm Street in South Portland on the night of Oct. 11.

The investigative report says South Portland officer Steven Connors was shot by Dubois at close range and, as he collapsed to the floor, he pulled his gun and fired eight times. At the same time, Portland Sgt. Robert Doherty, who was behind Connors in the tight quarters of the small apartment, pulled his gun and fired once, the report said.

Connors was shot four times. One bullet grazed his skull. He was also hit in the chest, shoulder and hand. Dubois was shotthree times, in the left thigh and buttocks, the report said.

South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins said Connors is a good officer who acted according to his training in the situation. Googins was not surprised by the attorney general's conclusion that the shooting was justified.

''I thought the investigation was incredibly thorough. It was an incredibly complex investigation because not only was it an officer-involved shooting, but the officers were victims of an attempted homicide,'' he said, referring to a grand jury indictment against Dubois charging him with two counts of aggravated attempted murder for allegedly firing at Connors and Doherty.

Despite being shot four times and being rushed to the hospital for surgery, Connors is expected to report for work on a limited basis next week, Googins said.

The department plans to finish its internal investigation into the incident today, which will include a review of whether department policies were followed, Googins said. Afterward, the department will study the incident to determine what tactical lessons can be drawn from it, he said.

The attorney general's report describes how Portland police had notified Connors that a car used by Dubois was at the apartment complex. Three Portland officers and Connors went to the complex, where they saw a man matching Dubois' description - first outside, then through a first-floor window.

Connors and Doherty knocked on the apartment door and spoke to a woman whose sister rents the apartment. The woman said she was alone but as she went to get identification, the officers saw Dubois. Dubois ignored the officers' attempts to speak with him.

Connors moved toward Dubois, who retreated into a back room and tried to shut the door, only to have Connors block it. Dubois then began firing a Taurus .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol, the report said. He fired five rounds, four of them hitting Connors.

The report said that as Connors collapsed after being hit, he pulled his own gun and fired back with eight shots, two of which apparently hit Dubois. At the same time, Doherty shot Dubois once.

Dubois fell to the floor and stopped firing. He was taken to Maine Medical Center in critical condition and is now being held on $500,000 bail in the Cumberland County Jail.

Copyright 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc.

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