Wife of man shot and killed by police last year claims officers knew he didn't have a gun

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Oct. 20—The wife of a man shot and killed last year by police has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against members of the Androscoggin County Sheriff's Office and the Mechanic Falls Police Department alleging that police knew he no longer had a gun but shot him anyway.

Jason Gora, 44, of Hebron was shot and killed on Feb. 2, 2020, in Minot by police following a high-speed chase. Gora allegedly was suicidal and threatening "suicide by cop" in the days leading up to his death. He died of multiple gunshot wounds and had a high level of methamphetamine in his system, according to the autopsy.

The Maine attorney general's office in April found police were justified in firing at Gora. Officers believed the Kukri-style machete he had was a gun, despite the fact that a dispatcher allegedly told them a relative had taken the gun away from him.

On Monday, Gora's wife, Nicole Gora, 46, of Hebron sued Androscoggin County, Sheriff Eric Sampson and deputies John Guay and Matthew Noyes, as well as the town of Mechanic Falls, Police Chief Jeffrey Goss and Officer Alfred Daigle.

Nicole Gora is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The search for Jason Gora that ended in his death began on Jan. 31, 2020, when his father called Auburn police to request a wellness check. He allegedly told police his son was suicidal and he could not reach him.

At about 4 p.m. that same day, Jason Gora's brother told police that he and some friends had located him in his 1997 Jeep but he'd sped away when his brother tried to take a handgun from him, the complaint said. On Feb. 2, the brother confirmed to police that he'd managed to get the gun away from Jason Gora.

At about 8 p.m. on Feb. 2, Jason Gora's girlfriend told police that he told her he intended to go to the Auburn police station and turn himself in, according to the complaint.

"However, instead of allowing him to do so, defendant Noyes decided to initiate a traffic stop, fully aware of Mr. Gora's fragile mental state," the complaint said. "Mr. Gora did not comply with the officer's attempt to conduct a traffic stop and sped away."

That led to a high-speed chase in which Jason Gora reached speeds of up to 80 mph in areas with speed limits of 20 and 50 mph, the complaint said. Daigle joined the pursuit and parked in the entrance to the Minot Post Office parking lot.

The complaint said that Jason Gora tried to avoid striking Daigle's cruiser and was unable to, but the Attorney General's report on the shooting said the Jeep crossed two lanes of traffic and intentionally struck the cruiser at 44 mph.

Jason Gora got out of the Jeep, allegedly carrying the machete. He refused to follow police commands to surrender, the report that cleared the officers said. At least one officer told investigators that he thought Jason Gora had a shotgun or a long gun. All said they feared for their lives and shot in self-defense.

The court complaint disputed that scenario.

"It is believed that the officers were under cover when Mr. Gora fled the vehicle and were in no danger," the document said, "and dispatch had made it clear to them that Mr. Gora was not in possession of a firearm, but officers decided to engage in chasing Mr. Gora."

Nicole Gora's attorney, Verne Paradie of Lewiston, also disputed the officers' claims that they rendered aid to Jason Gora after the shooting. The complaint alleges that they did not take steps to save his life.

Paradie did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.

Peter Marchesi, the Augusta attorney representing the Androscoggin County sheriff and his deputies, said Tuesday that his clients acted professionally, ethically and responsibly during the incident.

"This claim is a misplaced attempt to divert responsibility for criminal behavior and its resulting tragedy onto the police," he said. "The Androscoggin deputies involved responded to the actions of others in accordance with both their training and policies. The choices and actions of others dictated the response of the deputies."

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