State troopers acted in self-defense in fatal shooting during 2020 Hiram standoff

·4 min read

Oct. 14—The two state troopers acted in self-defense in April 2020 when they shot and killed a Hiram man during a 12-hour standoff at his home.

That's the conclusion of the Maine attorney general's office, which released the report from its investigation into the shooting last Friday.

On April 23, a man told police that a bullet — possibly from the Tripptown Road home of his neighbor, 59-year-old Reed Rickabaugh, who had been heard firing guns — hit his son's mattress. While investigating the shooting, Oxford County sheriff's Deputy James McLamb went to speak with Rickabaugh, who refused to come to the door, according to the investigator's report.

Fearing for the safety of his family, the neighbor got a protection from harassment order.

At 10 p.m. on April 24, McLamb and deputies Evan Rea and Matthew McDonnell went back to Rickabaugh's home to serve him with the protection order. While there, Rickabaugh emerged from the home holding a revolver and fired once toward McLamb as he took cover behind a truck.

Rickabaugh retreated inside, and soon police, including the Maine State Police's tactical team and negotiators, converged on the address.

A negotiator learned from Rickabaugh's mother in Mississippi that her son suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, lived alone with no pets, and owned two or three hunting rifles and a "significant" amount of ammunition, according to the report.

Another shot was heard from his home about 12:25 a.m. on April 25.

As the morning progressed, police attempted to persuade him to step out of the house unarmed. In addition to speaking to him over a PA system, negotiators called Rickabaugh's cellphone 28 times and left him 28 messages. But they got no response, according to the report.

An armored state police vehicle breached a window into Rickabaugh's home about 4:30 a.m. to increase the volume of the PA and get a look inside. Rickabaugh fired at the armored vehicle, penetrating its radiator, which began to leave coolant, investigators found.

The vehicle retreated down the driveway and the state police requested another armored truck from the Portland Police Department.

By just after 7 a.m., police left 55 voicemails on Rickabaugh's phone, and getting no response, police fired teargas into his home. In response, Rickabaugh fired at the armored vehicle again.

Around this time, the lights flashed on Rickabaugh's truck, as if activated remotely, leading police to believe he might attempt to flee, according to the report.

Then, at 9:03 a.m., Rickabaugh called 911 "claiming he was being attacked, and asking the dispatcher to send help," according to the report.

Over the PA system, police told Rickabaugh he was under arrest, that he should surrender and warned him officers may use deadly force if he continued to be violent.

By 10:30 a.m., and having left him 72 voicemails, police used a robot to place an explosive charge on the door and blew it out of the frame. Rickabaugh emerged holding a handgun and fired at the robot before going back inside and clearing debris from the doorway.

Hearing the shots, Cpls. George Neagle and Paul Casey — who were facing the side of the house where the explosive was detonated, along with Trooper Travis Chapman — believed the shots were fired in their direction and returned fire.

Rickabaugh, who was shot in the neck and chest, fell in the doorway where he died, according to the report. A subsequent autopsy found his blood alcohol level was 0.143 percent and he had recently ingested marijuana.

After reviewing the case, investigators determined Neagle and Casey acted in self-defense of themselves and other officers, and that the decision to fire back at Rickabaugh came after repeated attempts — including more than 70 phone calls and over a PA system — to convince him to surrender and leave the home unarmed.

"His continued use of deadly force in response to the deployment of the armored vehicle and other devices to breach the house and compel him to submit to arrest gave little choice but to respond with deadly force," the investigators concluded.

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