AUGUSTA — The Maine attorney general has ruled that the actions of a game warden who shot and killed a Rumford man in the woods last November were reasonable.

A statement on Maine Warden Jeremy Judd’s use of deadly force was issued Wednesday morning, following the AG’s investigation, which concluded:

On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, Eric Richard, 46, of Rumford was shot and killed by Judd during an armed confrontation in the woods behind Richard’s residence in Rumford.

Judd has been a state game warden for nine years. On Nov. 10, 2011, he was dispatched to Rumford to help search for Richard. Judd learned that Richard was a part-time police officer and worked full time for the Rumford Police Department as an administrative officer.

Judd also learned that Richard was potentially suicidal and armed with at least a handgun. Richard had ventured by himself into a wooded area behind his residence in Rumford the previous evening and had not returned home. Through the night, after the discovery of a note left by Richard in which he suggested suicidal intent, several unsuccessful attempts were made by other officers to contact him.

A search team was assembled, which consisted of Judd, two other wardens, and two Maine State Police troopers, one of whom was accompanied by a tracking dog. All five officers were in uniform. The members of the search team, as well as family members and other law enforcement officials associated with the attempts to locate Richard, were aware that Richard was disheartened because he was being investigated in his capacity as an officer of the Rumford Police Department.

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Richard, upon leaving work the day before, had informed the duty sergeant at the police department that he would not be in to work the next day.

After about an hour of searching in the woods, the tracking dog led the five searchers to an area at the base of a rock ledge where Richard was sitting on the ground wrapped in a tarp and large plastic bags. It appeared that he had spent the night there and had used the tarp and plastic bags to keep warm.

Because of Richard’s motionless stance and his failure to recognize the presence of the searchers, some of the members of the search team thought he was deceased. Members of the search team instructed Richard to “show your hands,” and one of the troopers warned Richard that a dog would be sent in if he did not comply.

One member of the team, who knew Richard, identified himself and addressed Richard by name, but Richard still did not move or respond. As the search team got closer, Judd, who was 15 to 20 feet away, saw Richard turn his head and look in his direction. Richard removed his right hand from under the tarp and displayed a handgun. He pointed the gun at Judd and other officers in the search team. Several members of the team saw the action and shouted commands for him to drop the gun.

Judd fired three rounds at Richard from the .223 caliber rifle he was carrying. Later investigation determined that all three rounds struck Richard, resulting in his death at the scene.

The weapon brandished by Richard was a fully loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

Whether deadly force by a law enforcement officer is reasonable is based on the totality of the circumstances, and must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, allowing for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.

Attorney General William J. Schneider has concluded that at the time Judd fired his weapon at Richard, it was reasonable for Judd to believe that deadly force was imminently threatened against him and other officers, and it was reasonable for Judd to believe that it was necessary for him to use deadly force to protect himself and the other officers.

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