The First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has upheld a lower court ruling that a Portland police officer did not violate a Veazie man’s constitutional rights when he shot him after a struggle as the man tried to drive away.

On April 10, 2011, police pulled over Jonathan E. Mitchell, a sexually violent convicted felon and a habitual motor vehicle offender, after a short chase because he had broken into his ex-girlfriend’s house a short time earlier.

Officer Robert Miller tried to get Mitchell out of the car but he refused and they struggled briefly at the door until Mitchell revved the engine and sped off. As he did, Miller shot him in the shoulder and through the neck. The confrontation was caught on a police cruiser video camera, evidence which the court reviewed in reaching its decision Monday.

Mitchell sued Miller saying that shooting him was an assault and violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. He argued that he was not threatening the officers or anyone else as he tried to escape.

U.S. District Court in Portland awarded Miller summary judgment, agreeing with the officer’s claim of qualified immunity, that because he was a police officer reasonably trying to protect others he should be immune from civil lawsuit.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling, determining that Miller’s conduct was not unreasonable in the circumstances.

Maine’s attorney general had previously found that Miller was justified in using deadly force in the encounter.