The girlfriend of the 32-year-old Standish man shot and killed by a Gorham police officer Friday said the shooting was unnecessary and that her boyfriend never intended to hurt anyone.

Kyle Needham Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Amanda Merrifield, 33, said she was sitting next to Kyle Needham in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet S10 pickup truck when three Gorham police cruisers descended on them in the side parking lot of the Gorham Burger King.

Gorham police Officer Dean Hannon fired once at Needham, hitting him in the torso, as he attempted to drive the small pickup between two of the police cruisers, Merrifield said. But the force of the bullet shifted his weight and caused him to slump on the steering wheel and press on the accelerator, changing the direction and speed of the truck, she said. The pickup then struck a police cruiser before coming to a rest a short distance away. Needham collapsed in Merrifield’s lap and died a short time later after police pulled him from the vehicle to start CPR, Merrifield said.

The Attorney General’s Office, which investigates all police-involved shootings, said Needham rammed a cruiser and was shot when it appeared that he was about to run over an officer. But Merrifield said the truck had just begun to move forward when Hannon shot Needham, and that at no point in her recollection did their vehicle point toward a police officer who was on foot.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” Merrifield said. “Kyle wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was the kindest, most wholesome, kindhearted, giving soul you’d ever meet. And anyone who’s ever met him would say he same exact thing.”

The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on Merrifield’s version of events Monday. An autopsy of Needham was completed Monday, and the preliminary results, including the cause and manner of Needham’s death, were likely to be released Tuesday, said Mark Belserene, an administrator for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta.

Needham had been sought by police since at least May, when he evaded a state police trooper in York County in a high-speed chase, a violation of his probation. Merrifield said the couple were getting Needham’s affairs in order so that he could turn himself in this week, knowing he faced almost four years in prison.

Needham had a lengthy criminal history, including two convictions for eluding police, but all of his other convictions were for property or drug crimes. His most recent stint in prison ended in February, when he was released on probation. He had been sentenced to five years for eluding police, a felony, but all but 14 months had been suspended. When he was shot, Needham was about three months into two years of probation. If he was arrested while on probation, a judge could sentence him to all of or a portion of the remaining 46 months of his prior sentence.

Merrifield also raised questions about whether Hannon could have accidentally shot her when he fired. Merrifield said she was sitting in the direct path of the bullet when it shattered the driver’s door window.

“If that (shot) was any closer, or a higher-caliber gun, that could have gone through both of us,” Merrifield said.

Merrifield said she’d been with Needham since about March, but the couple first met about 20 years ago when they attended Bonny Eagle High School together. They kept in touch over the years, but never dated, until Needham offered her a place to stay when she lost her housing, and a few weeks later they were a couple, she said.

Merrifield said she was with Needham on May 21 when they had stopped along the side of Plains Road in Hollis in a car they had just purchased and an unmarked state police cruiser pulled up behind them. Needham’s license to drive was suspended until 2021. He took off, initiating a high-speed chase, and troopers backed off when the couple reached Route 35.

Merrifield said that before the shooting, the couple was camping out near a friend’s house in Sebago and laying low.

Hours before the confrontation with police in Gorham, Merrifield said the couple went to Gorham Center to do some shopping and so Merrifield could meet her mother. Needham bought groceries at the Hannaford, and then the two decided to get something to eat at the Burger King across the street.

They chose to go into the restaurant instead of using the drive-thru lane, she said. As they ordered their food and sat down to eat, Merrifield said she noticed one of the restaurant employees staring at them.

“It was weird, it was uncomfortable,” Merrifield said. “This one guy in the back kept staring us down.”

But Needham brushed it off, she said. He probably thinks you’re cute, Needham said.

“We got probably about halfway through our meal, and that’s when he started seeing the unmarked cars coming in. I thought he was joking. I said ‘That’s enough, please don’t.’ He said, ‘Amanda, I’m not joking.’ ”

Outside, their truck was backed into a parking spot near the entrance to a side lot. Behind the parking space was a curb and a small grass embankment. The couple ran from the restaurant, but as soon as they got inside the cab and slammed the doors, three police cruisers descended and blocked their exit.

Merrifield said two police officers got out of their cars, one on each side of the pickup, with their guns drawn, each shouting commands to get out of the truck. The officer on the passenger side opened Merrifield’s door and tried to pull her from the vehicle, she said, but she moved toward Needham, who shouted at the officer not to touch her.

Needham then put the truck in reverse, backing the rear tires over the curb and onto the grass in an attempt to get a better angle to escape to his right between two of the cruisers, Merrifield said. When he reversed, both officers backed away from the truck. As soon as Needham put the truck in drive and began to move forward, a bullet crashed through the driver’s window and struck Needham in his left torso. She estimated that Hannon, the officer who fired, was about 6 feet from the vehicle.

“Kyle jolted like if you got kicked in the side,” she said.

The impact also caused Needham to slouch down and move the steering wheel to the left. Instead of threading the truck between the police cars, Needham slammed into one of them before coming to a stop farther back in the parking lot.

“If he was never shot, Kyle would have gotten out of that situation with not a scratch on any of those vehicles,” Merrifield said. “The second he started to accelerate a little bit, that cop shot (him).”

Needham collapsed in her lap.

“He was trying to gasp for air and tried to speak at the same time,” Merrifield said. “I just scooped him up and said ‘OK, I love you, everything’s going to be OK’ until they ripped me out of the vehicle and threw me on the ground.”

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