A panel that examines fatal shootings by police in Maine has once again found that easy access to weapons, mental health problems, and drug and alcohol abuse were substantial factors in many cases.

“The contributing causes leading individuals to armed confrontations with law enforcement remain the same,” Maine’s deadly force review panel concluded in its fourth annual report. “Only the names change.”

Any time a law enforcement officer in Maine shoots a person in the line of duty, the Office of the Maine Attorney General investigates whether the use of force was justified. Since at least 1990, the office has never found a police shooting unjustified.

The deadly force review panel, which is part of the attorney general’s office, comprises lawyers, law enforcement officials and medical professionals who look beyond the question of legal accountability and instead search for common threads between shootings – and ways to prevent them in the future.

The panel’s findings have been consistent since its inception in 2019: Mainers killed by police are typically male, have criminal records, access to guns and are in the midst of mental health crisis that is often exacerbated by drugs or alcohol.

For the fourth year in a row, the group’s annual report “urgently” called for more support for the state’s mental health services. It also called on the Legislature to equip police officers and medical professionals with more ways to take people into protective custody and temporarily disarm people who they suspect might be dangerous – tools that perhaps could have helped police take Robert Card into custody before he committed the mass shooting in Lewiston last fall.



Several of the eight shootings the panel reviewed involved a Mainer apparently in the midst of a mental health crisis.

On July 15, 2022, 35-year-old Stephen Bossom was “behaving erratically and yelling that there was an active shooter” at the Sebasticook Lake Campground in Newport, where he worked and lived with his wife and daughter.

Video released by the attorney general’s office shows Bossom holding a handgun and arguing with Penobscot County Sheriff’s deputies. He tells them they aren’t the “actual cops,” and says, “if you want to shoot me, shoot me.”

He is shot after he raises his gun, and the video ends abruptly.

For years, officials have agreed that improving mental and behavioral health resources is a key first step in reducing the number of violent confrontations involving the police.


In its report, the panel applauded Gov. Janet Mills for making “historic and long-overdue investments” in Maine’s behavioral health system. But it also said those investments haven’t yet reduced the number of police shootings in Maine.

“It takes a long time to turn a ship,” the report reads.

The panel recommended a long list of mental and behavioral health improvements, some of which Mills already called for at last week’s State of the State address. In addition to increasing funding for short-term crisis centers, the report recommended improving access to inpatient detox facilities, increasing the number of psychiatric hospital beds and increasing funding for behavioral health professionals embedded within law enforcement agencies.

Some necessary improvements already are on the way, including a redesigned mobile crisis model proposed by the Office of Behavioral Health, the report says.

But other problems, including weaknesses in Maine’s controversial yellow flag law that have come to light in the wake of the Lewiston shooting, will require legislative fixes.



Though the Lewiston shooting is mentioned directly only once, several of the roughly 35 recommendations the panel listed in its report relate to issues that have come up during meetings of the governor’s commission into the shooting, including improving lines of communication between law enforcement agencies and between police, mental health providers, and friends and family members who could keep weapons away from potentially dangerous people.

One month before Card killed 18 people at two locations, Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s deputies twice attempted to conduct a welfare check on him at his Bowdoin home. But when Card refused to open the door, deputies recruited his family members to secure Card’s firearms and then closed the case.

Police say they were not able to take him into protective custody – and thus could not temporarily seize his weapons using Maine’s yellow flag law – because no law allows Maine law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant to enter someone’s home for the purpose of taking them into protective custody.

The deadly force review panel seconded Mills’ call for a process that would allow law enforcement to obtain a warrant in cases like Card’s. It also recommended that the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee form a task force to evaluate both the yellow flag law and Maine’s involuntary hospitalization laws, which law enforcement officials have said are difficult and time-consuming to implement.

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