The armed Windham man who was fatally shot outside his home by a sheriff’s deputy Saturday morning died of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
Brian MacMaster, director of investigations for the Attorney General’s Office, said Sunday that an autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner revealed that Stephen McKenney, 66, died from a head wound.
MacMaster said this is not the first time in his 37-year career that an officer has shot someone in the head, though he could not offer any specifics. The Windham shooting is under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, which reviews all incidents in Maine involving the use of deadly force by police.
Meanwhile, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce on Sunday identified the officer who shot McKenney in his driveway at 2 Searsport Way in Windham as Nicholas Mangino, 25.
Mangino, a graduate of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro, has been a deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for two years.
MacMaster said his investigative team will consider only whether the officer was justified in using deadly force against McKenney. He said the public often questions why an officer has to kill someone instead of wounding him.
“The idea that an officer can shoot a person in the hand or arm (to disable them) is pure TV. Their goal is to neutralize the threat,” MacMaster said.
MacMaster said he did not expect new information about the case to be released until the investigation is complete, which could take weeks. The sheriff’s office is required by state law to convene an incident review panel to examine the circumstances that led up to the shooting and look at whether the department’s policies regarding the use of deadly force need to be improved. That panel must issue a report on its findings independent from the AG’s investigation.
Since 1990, the Attorney General’s Office has investigated 114 deadly force incidents involving police. Not one of those investigations has found the officer to be at fault.
On Sunday, the neighborhood of single-family and duplex homes off Route 302 in Windham where McKenney and his wife lived was quiet. Few people were at home. One neighbor across from the McKenney house said she didn’t know the family and heard nothing unusual Saturday morning before gunfire erupted across the street.
Police were called to the McKenney home about 6:15 a.m. Saturday after getting a call from McKenney’s wife, Vicki, saying her husband was suicidal.
Windham police removed her from the house and within minutes McKenney emerged from the garage with a handgun, police said.
After two Windham police officers and the sheriff’s deputy made several attempts to get McKenney to drop the gun, Mangino fired two shots. One of the shots hit and killed McKenney.
Joyce said that Mangino had undergone a week of training on dealing with people in crisis, including those who have a mental illness. The training is administered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
A 2012 Portland Press Herald series that examined the use of deadly force by police found that most Maine police officers lack crisis intervention training.
A retired FBI agent who now lives in Maine said Sunday night that while he could not comment on the shooting in Windham, police officers who use deadly force do not aim to shoot a suspect in the head.
The retired agent, Urey Patrick, now teaches and lectures at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy on the use of deadly force by police. He co-authored a book on the subject, “In Defense of Self and Others,” which is now required reading at the academy. Patrick was also a firearms instructor for 15 years at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
“The fact that this individual was hit in the head was probably more luck of the draw than intent,” said Patrick, who lives in Winterport. “The location of the wounds are less about the intent and more about the skill.”
He said police officers are trained to shoot at the center of what they see – known as the center mass. But even the most skilled marksman may have difficulty hitting a target because a person may be running, charging an officer, or hiding.
“An ability to make a finely tuned shot in this type of scenario disappears,” he said.
And shooting to wound an armed person can result in more problems. Even a person who has been wounded can get off several shots in a matter of seconds, Patrick said.
Patrick recalled a case in which an officer shot a young man who was holding hostages inside a church with a knife. The officer wounded the suspect in the forearm, hand and wrist, but another officer fired the shot that killed the man. Officers said the suspect was still gripping the knife when they inspected the body.
“The bottom line – shooting to intentionally wound someone doesn’t work,” Patrick said. “If you miss, a friend, a neighbor, a loved one or even the officer could die. That’s why officers don’t shoot to wound. They shoot to protect life.”
Patrick said Maine’s law is clearly defined. The use of deadly force by police is justified only if an officer feels threatened or believes that another person’s life may be in danger.
The McKenney family declined to comment on the incident Sunday.
A criminal history records check on McKenney revealed that he did not have a criminal record in Maine.
Mangino has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
On Saturday, Joyce said Mangino had not been involved in an incident involving deadly force before the incident in Windham.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: