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Police Justified in Fatal Shooting, Court Rules

By Peyton Burgess

(CN) - Maine law enforcement did not act unreasonably when they entered the home of a mentally ill man and shot him to death after he opened fire, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled.

Officers continued shooting Daniel Bennett II, including final shots to the chest and head, after Bennett had fallen to the floor. Oxford County Sheriff's Dept. Captain James Miclon, a ranking officer who responded to the incident, allegedly told the Bennett family that officers "were out of control," "too gung ho," and going "way too fast."

Bennett's family claimed the officers violated his constitutional rights by entering and re-entering Bennett's house after relatives had moved to a safer location. They also said the officers did not allow Bennett to move freely in his house and used excessive force in shooting him to death after he fired a shot at officers.

The 1st Circuit affirmed dismissal of the claims, ruling that the officers had reason to believe they faced imminent and grave harm.

The court also tossed the claim that officers used excessive force when they kept shooting Bennett after he was down. "(I)n the context of this tense and dangerous situation," Judge Torruella wrote, the shooting officer "could have reasonably believed that Bennett posed a continuing threat, and that his own safety and the safety of the other officers required him to keep firing."

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