AUGUSTA — The Maine Attorney General has ruled that police officers were acting in self defense when they fatally shot a Paris man during an August standoff in Mexico.

The standoff, which lasted several hours, began Aug. 17 after Steven Piirainen, 52, stole a pickup truck in Paris and led police officers on a nearly 40-mile chase north to Main Street in Mexico.

Piirainen had an extensive police record.

The official report of the Office of the Attorney General said the facts in this case support a finding of self-defense.

Recounting the day of the shooting, the Attorney General’s report said late in the afternoon of Sunday, August 17, 2014, Steven Piirainen arrived at the Passenger Rail Restaurant & Bar in Norway.

Piirainen ordered a shot of whiskey, drank it quickly, and sat at the bar talking with the bartender, who was a friend of his.

Piirainen asked to borrow the bartender’s car but was turned down because the she knew Piirainen’s driver’s license was suspended. However, she offered to give him a ride.

Piirainen went outside while the bartender asked the restaurant owner’s permission to leave early so she could give the ride when the owner saw Piirainen heading for the owner’s pickup truck with the keys in the ignition.

The owner grabbed the driver’s door handle but the door was locked. He then jumped into the bed of the truck as it sped out of the parking lot with Piirainen at the wheel.

The owner pounded on the rear window, yelling at Piirainen to stop. He saw that Piirainen was holding a pistol in his right hand and watched as Piirainen pulled the slide of the pistol back, and released it before pointing the gun toward him in the bed of the truck.

Piirainen fired the pistol and as the vehicle turned onto another street about a half mile from the restaurant, the owner jumped out of the bed of the truck.

State Police Trooper Jason Wing was in the area and saw the speeding truck as well as a man jump out of the bed of the truck onto the roadway as the truck turned onto Alpine Street.

Wing alerted the State Police and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

Piirainen made a brief stop at his mother’s house to retrieve something from the basement, telling her, “I have to get out of here,” before driving away.

Dixfield police officer Dustin Broughton was aware of the armed vehicle theft in Norway and was aware that the suspect had shot at the vehicle’s owner in the bed of the truck.

After the suspect vehicle was involved in a “gas drive-off” in North Jay and was reported as traveling on U.S. Route 4 in the direction of U.S. Route 2, Broughton drove to Route 2 and turned east. Within minutes, he observed the suspect vehicle heading west on Route 2, where he pulled Piirainen over.

When Broughton got out of his cruiser, the vehicle drove off. Piirainen continued west on Route 2 at a lawful speed, slowing down as he traveled into downtown Dixfield.

State Police Trooper Paul Casey was on Route 2 and joined the pursuit behind Broughton.

As the chase approached the Mexico town line, Mexico officer Dean Benson joined the pursuit. Benson became the third cruiser in line behind Trooper Casey — all three displaying blue lights and sounding sirens.

Meanwhile, Rumford Police Sgt. Douglas Maifeld deployed a spike mat on a straight stretch of road in Mexico.

The truck drove directly over the spike mat and Casey, who was overtaking Broughton’s cruiser, saw Piirainen fire his pistol through the closed passenger window of the truck in the direction of Maifeld.

Casey reported that the spike mat deflated a tire on the suspect vehicle. Broughton resumed the lead in the pursuit, followed, respectively, by Casey and Benson.

Piirainen traveled just under a mile on the deflated tire. As it approached the Circle K gas station on Main Street in downtown Mexico, the vehicle stopped abruptly in a diagonal position across the roadway, partially blocking both travel lanes and ending the chase.

Broughton came to an abrupt stop in the opposite lane of travel. Benson, who had also driven his cruiser into the opposite lane of travel directly behind Broughton, was unable to stop his cruiser in time and crashed into the rear of Broughton’s cruiser.

Broughton ducked behind the dash of his cruiser for protection — at one point, seeing a bullet strike the lower right hand corner of his windshield. He waited for the shooting to stop before getting out of his cruiser.

Benson’s airbag deployed in the collision, obscuring his vision. Fearful that a bullet would penetrate his cruiser’s windshield, Benson got out of the cruiser with his patrol rifle.

Benson went to the rear of Broughton’s cruiser and fired at Piirainen. Benson saw Piirainen in the pickup and heard gunfire coming from that location as well as gunfire coming from Casey’s direction, which was behind and to the right of his position.

Casey “rolled” from his cruiser onto the pavement. He did not have time to place the cruiser in park, and the cruiser moved forward and made contact with the Mexico cruiser.

Casey crawled back into his cruiser to get his rifle before moving to the rear of his cruiser where he could see Piirainen leaning almost to his waist outside the window of the pickup truck driver’s door.

He fired at Piirainen, who retreated into the cab of the pickup truck. Casey moved to another location with an improved vantage point with Piirainen still at the center of the street.

The attempts to communicate with Piirainen continued for approximately 30 minutes after the exchange of gunfire. During this time, at least one citizen witness heard the police telling Piirainen that they knew he was injured and urging him to surrender.

The witness saw Piirainen display a middle finger and spin the rear tires of the truck until white smoke engulfed the area causing the pickup to move forward and come to rest against a guard post near the fuel pumps of the Circle K gas station.

When more attempts to communicate with Piirainen got no response and no further movement was seen inside the cab of the truck for some time, officers approached the vehicle and found that Piirainen was dead.

The next day, Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, the state’s chief medical examiner, conducted a postmortem examination and autopsy determining that Mr. Piirainen died from two gunshot wounds to the chest and neck from rounds fired by Casey.


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