Former co-workers and neighbors of the 66-year-old man who was shot and killed by police in Windham on Saturday said Stephen McKenney was a quiet, friendly man who was eager to move south in retirement.
A former employer said he was shocked at the way McKenney died because there was no inkling of distress.
At 6:14 a.m. on Saturday, McKenney’s wife called emergency dispatchers to report that her husband was threatening suicide. As officers responded, McKenney walked out of his garage armed with a handgun and may have pointed it, before being shot by a Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy.
Windham police said they had never been called to McKenney’s home before Saturday, and described the cluster of homes at the end of Searsmont Way as a quiet neighborhood. They would not discuss specifics of the shooting beyond information already released.
Mike Kelly, transportation director for Windham schools, was McKenney’s manager from 2008 until McKenney’s recent retirement. He said McKenney, who drove a school bus for the district, never caused a fuss. He was a reliable employee, Kelly said.
Three neighbors who live within 100 yards of McKenney’s home said McKenney was a friendly man who liked to take walks around the neighborhood, greeted his neighbors frequently, and often rode his bike around town.
One neighbor, who declined to be identified, said, “He could not wait for his wife to retire so they can go away from here.”
Another neighbor said he did not see the shooting, but he watched as investigators examined the scene. He said he saw McKenney’s body on the asphalt of Searsport Way, where McKenney lived with his wife, Vicki.
Two Windham police officers and Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Mangino responded to the call from McKenney’s wife Saturday morning. All three were already in that area of Windham and arrived quickly, police said. Mangino was nearing the end of his shift patrolling the Lakes Region and was in Windham, the middle of his patrol territory, writing up reports from the shift.
The police got McKenney’s wife out of the house. Then, McKenney walked out of his garage armed with a handgun. The officers and the deputy told McKenney repeatedly to drop his gun and surrender, said Sheriff Kevin Joyce.
Instead, McKenney raised the gun and pointed it, Joyce said.
Joyce would not say who McKenney pointed the gun at, and said his information was second-hand because he had not interviewed the deputy. He said there also were reports that McKenney may have been waving the gun.
The shooting is being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office, which investigates all use of deadly force by law enforcement officers in Maine. Details are expected to be released once the inquiry is complete.
Since 1990, the Attorney General’s Office has investigated 114 such incidents and found the officers justified in all of them.
To be justified, an officer must believe that deadly force is threatened against the officer or someone else, and that deadly force is necessary to remove the threat. The reviews do not explore whether officers could have responded differently or taken other action.
A Portland Press Herald series in 2012 examined use of deadly force in police incidents involving people with mental illness. The newspaper found that Maine and other states did not use special methods or training that could defuse life-threatening incidents.
Joyce said Mangino, who was hired in mid-2012 and completed the 18-week course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy at the end of 2012, completed crisis intervention team training a year ago. The training is designed to help officers deal with people in mental health crisis.
Joyce said Saturday’s events unfolded too quickly for the officers to bring that training to bear. McKenney approached the officers as they took cover, then raised his gun, giving police no time to de-escalate the situation, he said.
“Certainly, nobody wants what happened here, and we certainly don’t want to be burying officers either,” Joyce said.
Mangino fired two shots, one of them hitting McKenney in the head. He was put on paid leave, pending a review by an outside panel to determine when he can return to work.
Joyce described Mangino, 25, as a hard worker who has had no performance problems.
“He’s a great officer, very physically fit, always happy-go-lucky,” Joyce said. “He’s one of our people that responds to the highest number of calls.”
Mangino is a military reservist and a participant in the Crossfit strength and conditioning regimen.
Joyce said that shooting someone is extremely emotional for an officer, something the officer lives with for the rest of his or her life.
Joyce shot a man during a confrontation in Gray in 1994.
The man, who was suicidal, refused to drop his shotgun and continued advancing toward Joyce. When the man cocked the hammer on the weapon and raised it toward Joyce, a corporal at the time, Joyce fired once.
The bullet went through the man’s mouth and the back of his neck but missed his brain stem. The man survived.
“I can see his eyes like it was yesterday,” Joyce said.
He said a deputy had to pry his gun out of his hand, and in the days afterward his muscles ached as though he had been in a fight.
Joyce said he and two other supervisors who have been involved in shootings have been working to support Mangino.
“It’s all about making sure the individual doesn’t feel he’s a suspect even though he is the target of an investigation,” Joyce said.
Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: