Friends of Dustin Paradis toss flowers into the Kennebec River in Augusta on Nov. 3, 2021, during a memorial service for the 34-year-old man who was shot and killed by police during a confrontation with officers at the Bread of Life Shelter in Augusta. Paradis’ family recently sued the shelter for being negligent and not having adequately trained staff or policies on responding to escalating situations. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The family of an autistic man fatally shot by Augusta police officers during a confrontation at a homeless shelter has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against shelter operator Bread of Life Ministries.

“(The shelter’s) negligence was a direct and legal cause” of 34-year-old Dustin J. Paradis’ death, his family’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

Paradis was shot and killed by two Augusta police officers Oct. 13, 2021, after he appeared to move toward them with a knife in his hand and told them to kill him.

Dustin Paradis Contributed photo

The lawsuit, which was filed recently in Kennebec County Superior Court, claims Bread of Life failed to have policies for responding to escalating situations, including ones involving suicidal people. It also claims the shelter’s staff was not adequately trained to deescalate situations and that the shelter failed to maintain proper staffing levels or have policies outlining proper staffing levels.

The lawsuit was filed by Berman and Simmons Trial Attorneys lawyer Timothy Kenlan, who is representing Tracy Nale Sewall, the lawyer for Paradis’ estate.

Victoria Abbott, executive director of Bread of Life, said the nonprofit organization followed the proper protocols throughout the incident.


“Myself, along with all of the Bread of Life staff, feel the loss of Mr. Paradis — losing a member of our community is always difficult,” Abbott said. “I am proud of the services that my shelter staff provide to people in the shelter. They do the hard work every single day. I do not feel that Bread of Life is responsible for this death.”

Police were called to Bread of Life’s family shelter on Hospital Street after Paradis, witnesses said, had been in a confrontation with another man staying at the shelter. The man had been antagonizing Paradis and calling him names, and Paradis reportedly had enough and hit the man in the head with a bowl.

Court documents filed in the lawsuit say a staff member “tried to mediate the dispute between the two men but failed. Instead, the staff member’s involvement escalated the situation to where (Paradis) felt the need to grab a knife from the nearby knife block.”

The lawsuit states Paradis, who has autism spectrum disorder and mental health conditions of which shelter staff were aware prior to his death, was told he needed to leave the shelter. Then, he “became increasingly agitated and suicidal, grabbing a knife and attempting to slit his right wrist.”

The Bread of Life Ministries family shelter on Hospital Street in Augusta, seen in October 2021. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Paradis allegedly told staff he wanted to die and wanted to kill himself. A call to 911 was placed shortly after 6 p.m., and Augusta police Officer Sebastian Guptill and Sgt. Christopher Blodgett responded, arriving to find Paradis in a highly agitated state and continuing to try to slit his wrists.

“After a very brief interaction with law enforcement, (Paradis) charged at the responding officers with a large knife in hand while yelling ‘Kill me…,'” the lawsuit states. “The responding officers reasonably feared for their immediate safety and fired their weapons at (Paradis), causing his death.”


Neither the Augusta Police Department nor either of the officers involved in the shooting are named in the lawsuit, only Bread of Life Ministries. The organization runs the family shelter where Paradis died, an adjacent veterans shelter and also owns rental housing properties in the area.

“This is a sensitive case,” said Kenlan, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Paradis’ estate. “We at Berman and Simmons are investigating all aspects of what happened to find and hold accountable those responsible for Dustin’s tragic death. That this happened at all is evidence of a failure in the system.”

The lawsuit seeks a judgment for an amount to be determined as well as court costs and “other such relief as the court deems just and equitable,” noting Paradis’ estate suffered injury including the loss of comfort, society and companionship of Paradis, and incurred funeral expenses.

In a response filed with the court, Petruccelli, Martin & Haddow attorney Michael Martin, who is representing Bread of Life, denies Bread of Life was negligent and seeks to have the court award the agency’s court costs in the case.

An investigation into the shooting by the Office of the Maine Attorney General determined Guptill and Blodgett were acting in defense of themselves and others when they shot and killed Paradis.

Friends gather Nov. 3, 2021, along the Kennebec River in Augusta to remember Dustin Paradis, a 34-year-old man who was shot and killed by police during a confrontation with officers at the Bread of Life Shelter in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

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