‘There are other steps they could have taken’: Family members of man killed during police standoff react

0

CHESTER — Ohio relatives of the man killed Saturday during a police standoff in the woods off Route 116 had more questions Sunday than answers about what led to his death.

Maine State Police identified the man in a press release Sunday morning as Shad Gerken, 34, of Woodville.

Gerken’s mother, Tawnie Gerken of Englewood, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, said in a telephone interview she learned of her son’s death Sunday morning from her daughter-in-law, Melissa Gerken.

Tawnie Gerken said her son and his wife lived in Maine for more than a decade with their three children “in a house on a mountain in the woods.”

“He had no criminal record,” Tawnie Gerken said. “He never hurt anybody.”

Shad Gerken graduated in 1997 from Covington High School in Ohio, Tawnie Gerken said.

He played football for the Buccaneers, according to information on school’s website.

Norman Forsee, Shad Gerken’s stepfather, wondered whether there weren’t other steps the police could have taken before firing.

“When the police are dealing with a mentally ill man, how do they not get a social worker there to talk to him before they use deadly force?” he said. “There are other steps they could have taken, such as using bean bag bullets or they could have wounded him.”

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, said Sunday the Maine attorney general’s office would investigate the incident to determine whether the use of deadly force was justified.

“Many of those non-lethal methods were used over the course of the afternoon to no avail,” he said. “Details about how the incident evolved will be part of the attorney general’s report.”

Three members of the state police tactical team involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure after a police-involved shooting, McCausland said Sunday morning.

Sgt. Nicholas Grass, Sgt. Donald Shead and Detective Gregory Mitchell have been placed on leave while the incident is being investigated.

Grass is the tactical team commander and a 19-year veteran of the state police, McCausland said. Shead has 26 years of experience, and Mitchell has been on the job for 13 years.

Game Warden Sgt. Ronald Dunham suffered a superficial cut on his left hand as he attempted to restrain Gerken earlier Saturday.

Investigators returned to the scene Sunday to gather evidence, McCausland said.

The incident began when deputies with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office received a report at 10:09 a.m. Saturday of a man with a knife walking on Route 116 and acting erratically, Sheriff Glenn Ross said Saturday afternoon.

Gerken held police at bay from midmorning until about 6 p.m., when he was shot, according to a previously published report.

State police negotiators went to the scene and attempted to talk to the man. Members of the tactical team also were called to the scene, according to a press release McCausland issued Saturday night.

Advertisement