Apr. 8-MINOT - Authorities determined the fatal shooting of a local man by four area law enforcement officers after a high-speed chase more than a year ago was legally justified.
The Office of the Maine Attorney General on Wednesday released its findings from an investigation into the death of Jason A. Gora, 44.
Involved in the shooting were Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Jon Guay and deputies Matthew Noyes and Darian Nadeau, as well as Mechanic Falls Sgt. Alfred Daigle.
By law, the Office of the Attorney General investigates any use of deadly force by law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties.
The chase started in Auburn on the night of Feb. 2, 2020, and continued into Minot, according to Attorney General Aaron Frey.
Gora's father had days earlier asked police to check the well-being of his son. Unable to locate him, police put out an alert for a black Jeep Wrangler.
Gora's brother told police he and friends had found his brother in his Jeep in Auburn. When they tried to remove a handgun from his lap, he sped off. His brother said he was aware of text messages that indicated his brother was suicidal and he'd been hospitalized three months earlier after a suicide attempt.
Text messages in the days leading up to Feb. 2 suggested Gora may try to have police shoot him, according to Frey's report.
On the evening of Feb. 2, an officer spoke with Gora and urged him to go to the Auburn Police Department or a hospital.
Police learned later that night that Gora's brother had managed to take Gora's handgun from him.
The location of his cellphone suggested he was in the Poland area.
Gora's girlfriend told police he planned to walk to the Auburn Police Department, but minutes later, his Jeep was seen speeding in the direction of Minot.
County officers in three cruisers pursued Gora, whose Jeep reached 80 mph in a 50 mph zone. The Jeep ran through intersections and swerved into the oncoming lane, forcing vehicles into the breakdown lane, Frey's report said.
The Jeep crossed the centerline in Minot and smashed into Daigle's cruiser. The impact spun the cruiser and deployed its airbags.
The heavily damaged Jeep sat in the roadway. The four officers got out of their cruisers nearby. They could see Gora moving inside the Jeep, ordered him not to move and to show his hands. Two of the officers saw him reach for something in the backseat of the Jeep, Frey wrote.
Gora got out of the Jeep and fled down the road. The officers followed, shouting for him to stop.
He ran into a field, then a parking lot, stumbled and turned toward the officers.
"All the officers reported seeing something in Mr. Gora's hands that they all believed was a firearm being directed at them.
"Deputy Nadeau, believing Mr. Gora was leveling a firearm at him, deployed his Taser, while at the same time, diving to the ground in an attempt to avoid being shot. Deputy Nadeau then unholstered his firearm and shot at Mr. Gora.
"Sgt. Guay, believing Mr. Gora was holding an object as one would to level a shotgun or long gun and seeing Deputy Nadeau go down to the ground, thought one of his officers may have been shot and fired on Mr. Gora.
"Sgt. Daigle, believing that Mr. Gora had a 'shockwave shotgun' pointed at them, based on the curvature of the weapon and the way Mr. Gora was holding it, fired on Mr. Gora.
"Deputy Noyes, believing Mr. Gora had turned on them with a shotgun or other similar firearm, fired on Mr. Gora.
"All four officers reported they believed Mr. Gora was threatening their life and the lives of the other officers with deadly force and that they needed to use deadly force in response to the threat," Frey wrote.
"Even after Mr. Gora, struck by gunfire, fell to the ground in the parking lot, he appeared to be reaching for something," Frey wrote.
An investigation later determined that the object, a curved Kukri-style machete, was found about 3 feet from where he fell after he had been shot. It's sheath was roughly 25 feet from his body.
The officers administered first aid and were later joined by emergency medical personnel, "but to no avail," Frey wrote. Gora died at the scene.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds. A toxicology screen revealed "extremely high" levels of methamphetamine in Gora's system, Frey wrote.
He wrote that it was "reasonable" for the four officers "to believe that unlawful deadly force against them was imminent and that it was reasonable for them to believe it necessary to use deadly force for self-protection and to protect the other officers from serious bodily injury or death."
Each of the officers had been made aware that Gora had been suicidal, armed with a handgun and "may provoke an altercation with police," Frey wrote.
The high-speed chase had posed a "significant danger" to the safety of the community and the ramming the cruiser had posed a threat to the life of Sgt. Daigle, Frey wrote. That action appeared to the county officers to have been intentional.
Gora later had ignored commands from the officers.
"All the facts and circumstances point to the conclusion that the officers reasonably believed their lives were threatened and that it was necessary to act in self-defense and in defense of third parties when they used deadly force," Frey wrote.