An Augusta police officer only shouted “hey” three times before shooting without warning and injuring a knife-wielding psychiatric patient.

That’s according to a federal judge’s ruling that allows a civil lawsuit alleging an excessive use of force to move forward against the Augusta officer, Laura Drouin, who fired a trio of shots at Riverview Psychiatric Center outpatient Jason Begin during a confrontation in January 2015. Begin had become angry after being told he would be recommitted to the state psychiatric hospital after being allowed to live in a supervised home in the community, and began slicing his arms with a knife during a meeting with an outpatient team.

The ruling in the case was issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison in U.S. District Court in Bangor, and while it removes the city as a defendant, the claims will move forward against Drouin.

What exactly happened before Drouin fired at Begin will be the focus of the court case. Begin filed the suit against Drouin and the city in February 2016, saying his civil rights were violated, and sought $2.5 million in damages.

Nivison’s description of events — that Begin wasn’t warned he could be shot and didn’t threaten anyone else — differs from what was included in an earlier decision by the attorney general’s office that justified the officer’s use of force, finding that Drouin was defending her life and others when she shot Begin.

It ultimately could be up to a jury to weigh in on the differing accounts of what happened, said Matthew Bowe, an attorney representing Begin.


“Here it’s that the jury really needs to decide whether deadly force was unreasonable or not,” Bowe said, noting that “the parties went through an extensive discovery process with the plaintiff, defendant and other people present deposed for sworn testimony.”

Lawyers for Drouin and the city of Augusta had requested the summary judgment, asking the judge to rule in their favor. Writing that he must take the view most favorable to Begin when considering a summary judgment order, Nivison, in a ruling issued Thursday, refused to do so for Drouin. He wrote among other things that while Begin “plainly posed a threat to himself,” there were several disputed facts about what happened. That included whether Begin “presented an immediate threat to defendant Drouin or others in the room,” so Nivison decided he couldn’t issue summary judgment “based on the objective reasonableness of the conduct.”

Begin had been taken to the Riverview outpatient team’s offices on Jan. 12, 2015, and questioned about an accusation by another person that Begin had provided him marijuana and had used marijuana himself, according to the lawsuit.

Drouin was dispatched there to return Begin to the hospital.

When she approached him, Nivison wrote in the description of the facts, Begin “stood up and, as he stood, reached into his pocket and said, ‘I should have done this moons ago.'”

Begin pulled out a black folding knife with a 3 1/8-inch blade and cut both his arms before pointing it at a team member, who then was backing away with others.


The lawsuit says, “Approximately five seconds after he cut himself with his pocket knife, Officer Drouin fired three shots at Mr. Begin with her duty handgun, a .40 caliber Glock Model 23.”

Nivison wrote that “within a few seconds of entering the room in which (Begin) was meeting with members of the (outpatient) team, defendant Drouin shouted ‘hey, hey, hey’ and shot (Begin) three times.”

Nivison added, “Defendant Drouin did not instruct (Begin) to drop the knife or otherwise warn him of the possible use of deadly force,” and that before he was shot, Begin “made no movement toward any other person and made no verbal threats to any other person.”

Begin was hit three times by the gunshots. The lawsuit said one bullet punctured a lung, one hit his left shoulder and another his lower left chest, shattering ribs. The complaint says he suffered permanent injuries, including partial paralysis and scarring as well as emotional distress. He spent weeks in the hospital after the shooting.

According to the description of events from the attorney general’s office, Drouin drew her weapon and shouted for Begin to stop, and he refused. Drouin fired three shots as he continued to raise his knife and slash his arms, the attorney general’s report stated.

Begin’s complaint says Drouin’s shooting “was an excessive use of force” and she should have known she was violating his rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments. It also charges her with negligence and battery, saying, “Mr. Begin did not consent to being shot by Officer Drouin,” and “Officer Drouin intended to cause harmful or offensive contact to Mr. Begin.”


Timothy Feeley, spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, said via email on Tuesday that the judge’s “denial of summary judgment in this civil action was based precisely on what the judge determined to be a genuine dispute in the facts as related by the plaintiff and defendant. When there is such a dispute, summary judgment cannot be granted.”

Bowe said he has spoken with Begin about Nivison’s decision and about a separate hearing set for May 12 at the Capital Judicial Center on Begin’s petition to be discharged from the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. Bowe, who represents Begin in that state court proceeding as well, said Begin currently lives in a group home in Windsor, where he receives outpatient services through Riverview.

Drouin was placed on leave after the January 2015 shooting but was returned to duty a month later after an internal investigation by Augusta police found she had followed correct procedure. She remains on staff at the Police Department.

Attorney Edward Benjamin, who represents Drouin and the city, said Tuesday he just received the decision and was deciding whether there’s an opportunity to appeal. Benjamin said the appeal could be based on the judge’s refusal to grant summary judgment for Drouin on the basis of qualified immunity, which would shield her from civil liability for her actions, as well as the Fourth Amendment claim that she used excessive force. Any appeal would go to the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

Begin initially had been placed in state custody Aug. 2, 2004, after being found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for stealing an airplane in Androscoggin County and crashing in Canada in what he described an “elaborate suicide attempt” because he faced charges of gross sexual assault involving family members.

Riverview records show that Begin tried to hang himself in November 2011 in a bathroom there and that police were brought in to intervene a month later when he “was verbally threatening to harm others and was posturing aggressively.”


Begin remained at Riverview until the fall of 2013, when a court order authorized him to enter an outpatient program that allowed him to live in a group home in the community. The court required Begin to attend regular sex offender and alcohol counseling and prohibited him from using alcohol or unlawful drugs.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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