Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Doug Harlow email@example.com
Fairfield Police Chief John Emery left his home on Christmas Eve armed with his service-issued .357 Glock, semi-automatic pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition.
Former Fairfield police Chief John Emery entered a guilty plea to operating under the influence in Skowhegan District Court on Sept. 18.
Staff photo by David Leaming
Dec. 24, 2012
At 2:49 p.m., Fairfield’s police chief, John Emery, is reported as suicidal at his home on Palmer Road in Skowhegan.
By 5:30 p.m., more than a dozen police find Emery in his pickup truck, stuck in a ditch off Notch Road in Skowhegan. They surround the area but don’t approach him.
At 6:03 p.m., police hear a single gun shot from the area of the truck.
About 6:40 p.m., police learn that Emery called his wife and parents to say goodbye. A short time later, Emery approaches police with a loaded pistol in his pocket. He is tackled, stunned and taken into custody.
At 8:06 p.m., a hospital- administered test shows Emery’s blood alcohol level at 0.272 — more than three times the legal limit for intoxication. Emery’s attorney later says that a hospital test is not accurate enough for a criminal case.
Emery requests and is granted administrative leave.
Emery resigns from Fairfield’s police department.
Emery is issued a summons to appear in court on a charge of operating under the influence in connection with the police standoff.
Emery pleads guilty to OUI and is sentenced to pay a $500 fine, $140 in court costs and to surrender his driver’s license for 90 days. It was his first drunken-driving conviction.
Family members told authorities he was going to kill himself — or die in a shootout with police.
At 2:49 p.m. the Somerset County Regional Communications Center received a call from Crisis & Counseling, a mental health and substance treatment center, reporting a suicidal man at a home on Palmer Road in Skowhegan. Skowhegan police identified the man as Emery.
Patrol Officer Ryan Dinsmore issued an alert to find Emery and advised caution.
In the following hours, a dozen police officers and deputies converged in a tense standoff with the agitated Fairfield chief, who was found in his pickup truck, stuck in a ditch on a dirt road.
It ended with Emery firing a shot, a struggle with police officers who shocked him with a stun gun, tackled him and wrestled a loaded gun from his pocket.
Those are among the details contained in police reports that have been released nine months after the incident in response to Freedom of Access Act requests by the Morning Sentinel. Police previously refused to disclose what happened and have denied prior public records requests by the newspaper.
The police reports, which were not filed in court in connection with the criminal case against Emery, lay bare the frantic events of Dec. 24. Statements by Dinsmore, Skowhegan Police Officer Joshua King, Sgt. Keith Bigger, Detective Kelly Hooper and Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department portray Emery as a man in crisis, his behavior shocking officers who knew him personally.
Two days after the standoff, he requested and was granted administrative leave from the police department, then resigned March 1.
Emery was issued a summons May 6 to appear in court on a charge of operating under the influence in connection with the police showdown. He pleaded guilty to the charge last month.
‘I read the police reports and cried’
In a telephone interview, Emery, 48, who voluntarily surrendered his law enforcement certificate in May, said he has no memory of anything from the days leading up to Christmas Eve and no memory of the incident itself.
“I can’t tell you what I did for two and a half days, don’t know who I talked to, don’t know what I did — I don’t remember any of it,” Emery said. “I don’t know what happened that night. I only know that now because I read the police reports and I cried.
“I read those and cried like a baby.”
Emery said a combination of medication, stress and alcohol pushed him into becoming a person he didn’t recognize. It happened “right out of the blue,” he said.
Emery would not discuss what medication he was taking or why it was prescribed to him.
“It just kills me — 27 years of my life in public service — it hurts, but it is what it is,” he said. “In a way I’m a little bit bitter because I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me.”
There had been an argument with family members a few days before, on Dec. 21, which appeared to have upset Emery.
Emery, with 27 years on the police force and 12 of those as chief, appeared to have withdrawn from friends in recent months, family members told police. He was prescribed medication for pain from back surgery, possibly suffered from depression and seasonal affective disorder and had been drinking that day, police reports said.
Emery’s wife, Liza, feared he would act on his words to either kill himself or force police to shoot and kill him — suicide by cop.
(Continued on page 2)