January 8

Farmington denies lawsuit allegations that officer in 2011 shooting was not well trained

The town’s answer to the lawsuit says there is insufficient evidence that former U.S. Army Ranger Justin Crowley-Smilek, shot to death by Officer Ryan Rosie, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Farmington officials denied allegations that a 2011 police shooting violated a 28-year-old veteran’s constitutional rights, in a statement filed by their attorney this week.

click image to enlarge

TRAGIC END: Lorna and Michael Smilek hold a 2006 photograph of Michael’s son, Justin Crowley-Smilek, who was shot and killed after he confronted Farmington police in 2011.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

The answer is in response to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleging Officer Ryan Rosie used unreasonable force when he fatally shot U.S. Army veteran Justin Crowley-Smilek.

The lawsuit also names the town of Farmington and Police Chief Jack Peck, claiming the town police department insufficiently trained Rosie to respond to people with mental illness, such as Crowley-Smilek.

The response filed by the town’s attorney, Douglas Louison, on Monday states there is insufficient evidence that Crowley-Smilek was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.

It also denies that Crowley-Smilek rang the bell of the Farmington Police Department to ask for help Nov. 19, 2011, before he was shot outside of the station.

Louison did not return calls seeking additional information. Crowley-Smilek was armed with a large knife when he arrived at the Farmington municipal building and was shot a short time later by Rosie. The state attorney general later ruled the shooting justified.

In Maine, 42 percent of people shot by police since 2000, and 58 percent of those who subsequently died, had mental health problems, according to a report by the Portland Press Herald.

Other findings in the report include:

• Nationally, about half of estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year are mentally ill.

• The vast majority of Maine’s 3,500 police officers lack the crisis intervention training that can defuse a deadly conflict.

• The Maine attorney general’s office, which investigates all police shootings, has never found one to be unjustified.

• Confidentiality protection for police and a lack of data make it all but impossible for the public to evaluate police shootings in Maine.

• Violent encounters are likely to increase because of cutbacks in mental health services, the return of veterans troubled by their war experiences and the growing abuse of prescription drugs.

When reviewing police shootings, the state attorney general’s Office investigates whether the officer reasonably believed that deadly force was about to be used against him or herself, or someone else, and whether the officer believed deadly force was needed to prevent that.

Farmington’s attorney argues against the claim made by Crowley-Smilek’s parents that he was not a threat when he arrived at the station with the knife.

The statement from the town officials contested all allegations from the lawsuit of Ruth E. Crowley, of Milwaukie, Ore., and Michael Smilek, of Farmington, claiming the town and police department placed officers on the road without proper training.

“Any alleged injuries or damages sustained by the plaintiff’s decedent were caused by his own intentional and/or criminal conduct,” according to the statement.

The lawsuit contends that Rosie panicked after he saw Crowley-Smilek had a knife. Rosie took cover behind a police cruiser and drew his service firearm and fired seven or more shots at Crowley-Smilek, killing him, according to court documents.

The lawsuit claims Rosie never called for additional police help or retreated back to the police station, points that conflict with the state attorney general’s findings, which reported that Rosie used his lapel microphone to call for help.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

kschroeder@centralmaine.com
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