EAST MADISON — Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster is down three deputies, including his second in command, following a deadly shoot out with an armed man who had already shot and killed three people in Madison on July 5.

With those three deputies on leave until they are cleared to work again, Lancaster has had to fill gaps in service and spread the workload around.

“We’ve redistributed some of the work, which means the people that are there, there’s a greater work load,” Lancaster said. “The open shifts you have to fill with reserve and full-time deputies, so there’s a financial cost there. I don’t have those costs calculated right now.”

The three deputies involved in shooting Carroll Tuttle Jr. were Chief Deputy James Ross; his son, Detective Michael Ross; and Deputy Joseph Jackson. The Office of the Maine Attorney General is investigating the officer-involved shooting, as is protocol in Maine, and the deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave in the meantime.

Lancaster said he has had to spread the duties of Chief Deputy Ross among other high ranking members of the department, including Lt. Carl Gottardi and Staff Sgt. Michael Knight.

“The chief deputy’s role is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office,” Lancaster said. “He coordinates the criminal activity and the patrol activities. There’s the jail administrator that answers to the chief and we have court security and a civil division — he coordinates a lot of that work. Administratively, those tasks still have to be completed.”

Gottardi and Knight are shouldering some of those administrative duties. Cpl. David Cole has been put on temporary assignment from patrol to the detective division to replace Detective Ross.

Lancaster said there are 10 rural road deputies on regular staffs and now there are nine, so those vacant shifts will have to be filled to close the gap in service.

“I’m hoping it will,” he said.

Lancaster said the four-deputy Madison Division has not been affected by the leaves of absence.

The deputies shot and killed Carroll Tuttle Jr., 51, after the man reportedly opened fire on them just after 7:30 a.m. July 5 on Russell Road in Madison. It happened after Tuttle Jr. had gone on a shooting rampage, killing his wife, their son and a neighbor over the false belief that his partner was having an affair. Killed that morning was 53-year-old Lori Hayden and her son, 26-year-old Dustin Tuttle, at their home at 316 Russell Road, according to police.

Police said Tuttle Jr. then shot and killed Mike R. Spaulding, 57, at his home at 299 Russell Road up the road, before returning to the area of his home and shooting and wounding Harvey Austin, 57, of Skowhegan.

The deputies from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office who had gone to the area then shot and killed Tuttle Jr. in his driveway.

The three Somerset police officers may be able to return to work before the attorney general investigation is publicly released.

It will be up to Lancaster as to when and if the deputies return to work, according to Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Office of Maine Attorney General, which is investigating the officer-involved shooting.

“Our review is separate from any administrative suspensions of a law enforcement officer following a use of force event and it is up to the agency when and if an officer is returned to duty,” Feeley said in an email this past week.

Typically, investigations into officer-involved shootings by the Attorney General’s Office can take several months. Feeley said the investigation into a Feb. 10 shooting by police in Vassalboro still is under review, more than five months after the incident. The last attorney general report of a police shooting in Maine was released Dec. 19, 2016, involving a shooting that happened May 7 that year — a difference of more than seven months.

Lancaster said he is awaiting a briefing from Brian MacMaster, the director of investigations at the AG’s office, to determine his next move in getting his officers back on the job.

“There’s a process that has to be completed before the deputies come back to work,” Lancaster said. “It will be their preliminary thoughts or what they know to this point and that will provide me with the information to return them to work or not return them back to work.”

He said the briefing by MacMaster will not be made public because it is protected as part of the full investigation. He said he expects he will have the briefing within three weeks.

Lancaster said the briefing is a road map for him to follow so he doesn’t have to wait for the final AG’s report.

An eyewitness to the shooting, Donald Curtis, who lives next door to the house where Hayden and Tuttle Jr. lived, said deputies spotted Tuttle Jr.’s pickup truck and confronted him just after he had shot Austin. Tuttle Jr. reportedly shot at the deputies, who quickly returned fire and killed him.

Curtis said he went out into his yard when he saw all the police and emergency vehicles going to Spaulding’s home. Curtis saw Tuttle Jr. shoot Austin, followed by what sounded like fireworks going off as sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with Tuttle Jr.

“I was standing here with a sheriff, and one of them went down to Carroll’s to confront him and he just started to open fire,” Curtis said. “Apparently he went into the house and came out the back of the house and come around to the side and shot Harvey Austin right in the face — it was gunfire worse than fireworks. I see Harvey drop in the road.

“I didn’t see Carroll until it was all said and done. He was dead. It blew my mind.”

He said he heard what sounded like 20 or 30 rounds being fired during the exchange.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow