AUGUSTA, Maine — The District Attorney for Lincoln County says she intends to bring a murder charge against a former Waldoboro police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old man in 2007.
The Attorney General says DA Natasha Irving doesn’t have the legal authority to charge a police officer, but Irving insists she does.
It was the early morning hours of September 2007 on the road to Friendship where Gregori Jackson met the police officer who would end his life.
“Gregori was 18,” said his mother, Natalie. “When he was beaten, maced, and ran into the woods. He was scared, he was 18. He was then shot five times by Waldoboro police.”
The investigation by the Attorney General’s office, cited by DA Irving, indicates Waldoboro reserve office Zachary Curtis had stopped the car Jackson was in, determined Jackson had a bail violation to not drink alcohol and tried to arrest him. Jackson and the officer struggled beside the car, Jackson was sprayed with Mace, but then ran off into nearby woods. Jackson was not armed, and Officer Curtis chased him into the woods.
The record states that another fight happened in the woods. Irving says Curtis beat Jackson with his police baton. Curtis told the AG’s office that Jackson hit him with a “log," knocking off his glasses, and then he and Jackson ended up fighting on the ground with Jackson punching and choking him. Curtis said he feared he would pass out, so he drew his gun and shot Jackson multiple times in the back, as the teenager was still on top of him.
But the DA says information from the former Maine Deputy Medical Examiner, obtained last year, raises doubts about the truth of the officer’s story. The Attorney General’s investigation said Jackson was on top of the officer, hitting and choking him when Curtis pulled his gun and fired, and ruled the shooting justified.
Irving said the medical examiner’s report suggests it could not have happened that way because of blood evidence.
“The first bullet wound that exited Gregori's chest caused severe bleeding and drenched his shirt with blood,” Irving said at a press conference Friday. "Reserve Officer Curtis said he was lying on the ground with Gregori on top of him, chest to chest."
She says the forensic evidence raises doubts about that part of the story.
“His uniform was negative for blood. The only blood was on reserve officer Curtis uniform was a minute splatter a few millimeters on his left arm. This forensic evidence renders Curtis’ statement impossible.”
Irving cited other portions of the forensic report by the deputy medical examiner, that there were no indications on Jackson’s hands or Curtis’ face that Jackson had been punching the officer as claimed.
Asked why those facts didn’t come to light during the original investigation, Irving said the former examiner said she had never been informed of Curtis’ statements about what happened and was never asked questions by investigators about her autopsy findings.
Rep. Jeff Evangelos (I-Friendship), who has pursued the issue along with Irving and joined her a year ago to meet with the Attorney General, denounced the AG’s handling of the case then and now.
“Greg’s murder was just that, unjustified, brutal killing of an unarmed youngster by an unqualified police officer. The AG has done nothing with that evidence.”
Irving says she will seek a grand jury indictment to bring a murder charge against Curtis. Irving claims her study of Maine law indicates she has the authority to bring that charge. The Attorney General’s office says she does not.
A statement from AG Aaron Frey on Thursday said Frey’s staff is continuing to study the case but has made no decisions about whether to take any further action.
Natalie Jackson says she and her family want justice, which they claim has been denied.
“Attorney General Frey,” Jackson told reporters. “I want you to know our wounds have never healed, they are as raw as the day Gregori was murdered.”