AUGUSTA, Maine — At a Thursday press conference, Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills said his officers have been responding to "more dangerous calls" since the summer. The most recent was an incident Wednesday that resulted in two officers fatally killing Dustin Paradis.
Sergeant Christopher Blodgett and Officer Sabastian Guptill have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is a standard procedure for this situation.
“It was almost immediately after them coming into contact was when the armed confrontation ensued. Obviously, they used their firearms and there was a knife involved with [Paradis].”
The incident took place inside the Bread of Life Ministries shelter where Paradis was a resident. Mills said Paradis injured another person and sent them to the hospital before the officers arrived on the scene.
This was the third officer-involved shooting within the department in the past five years. Guptill was involved in two of them. The first was a November 2019 shooting when he shot and wounded a man.
Mills said the two officers will be on paid leave for at least 30 days and they will receive crisis counseling and meet with other individuals before they can be cleared to rejoin the force.
At the Thursday press conference, Mills went on to describe the current environment for not just his department, but for all police officers responding to calls in Maine.
"Our calls have increased exponentially and the danger is even worse now, too," he said. "I don’t know what the cause of all of this is but I can tell you that’s real and true, that we’re seeing more and more dangerous calls at this time in what we’re dealing with.”
Since the start of 2021, officers have shot 10 people in the line of duty which doubled the number of officer-involved shootings reported in 2010.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General said the number of shootings various from year to year and each incident is separate and has its own specific facts. The spokesperson added it is not uncommon for this many shootings to happen in a short time period but each incident is its own separate case.
Chief Jared Mills was not aware if Paradis was suffering from a mental health issue Wednesday evening. The department does have a mental health worker that responds to these types of calls but Mills said the worker was unable to get to the scene on time.
Brendan McQuade is an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Southern Maine. He said many of these officer-involved shootings include situations where substance abuse, mental illnesses, and homelessness are a factor.
“That’s what I find concerning in these situations, but it’s also what, unfortunately, has become predictable or expected," he said Friday. “Police are expected to and tasked to deal with every social problem.”
McQuade said staffing departments with more non-emergency responders, and crisis intervention teams can help police in certain situations. In fact, some of his students have expressed interest in being involved in that line of police work.
Although Maine is one of the least populated New England states, McQuade cited a Washington Post report that found the state had the highest rate of police-involved shootings since 2016.
“The presence of a uniformed police officer with a badge, a gun, or a taser can escalate a situation," he added.
As the new generation of law enforcement officials enters the workforce, McQuade said all of them have grown up in an era where there have been more conversations around officer-involved shootings.
The Attorney General's Office continues to work on finalizing these investigations, Mills said it takes about a year or two for the reports to be finished.
In an effort to speed up that process, Attorney General Aaron Frey sponsored a bill that was passed by the Maine Legislature this session that would require Frey to submit the findings of each officer-involved shooting to a pannel 180 days after the incident.
When Governor Janet Mills was serving as Attorney General she released a report that most of these calls involved situations of mental health, drugs, or domestic violence. The report also found in most events officers had one minute or less to assess the situation before action was taken.