‘They killed an innocent girl': Family, friends question why police shot 18-year-old
VASSALBORO, Maine (BDN) -- Family members and friends mourning the 18-year-old woman and 25-year-old man shot to death by police two weeks ago, after the man allegedly rammed a pickup truck into a state police cruiser, question the use of deadly force.
Police “didn’t need to use excessive force like that. They could have took that car out,” said Jessica Fagre, the mother of Ambroshia “Amber” Fagre , 18, of Oakland, who was fatally shot alongside Kadhar Bailey, 25, of Gardiner on Feb. 10.
When they were shot, Fagre was a passenger and Bailey was driving the truck on Arnold Road, a half-mile-long, one-lane dirt fire lane that connects Webber Pond Road to a handful of camps and homes along the water.
Maine State Police Lt. Scott Ireland, State Trooper Jeff Parks and Vassalboro police Chief Mark Brown all fired their weapons after responding to a report of daytime burglaries in the area, according to Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Maine attorney general’s office. All three officers have been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the attorney general’s investigation.
Neither the involved law enforcement agencies nor the attorney general’s office has released a detailed account of how Amber Fagre and Kadhar Bailey ended up being killed. Authorities have not said how many shots were fired, where the three officers were positioned when they used their weapons, which officer or officers fired the fatal shots or whether the officers considered their own lives endangered.
Police also have not said whether Bailey or Fagre were armed or if they thought they were. One man said his father who lives on the road next to Arnold Drive had a gun pointed at him by a male suspect earlier that day before he was tied up and his home robbed.
Since at least 1990, the Maine attorney general’s office has never ruled a fatal shooting by a law enforcement officer unjustified. That’s why Fagre’s boyfriend, Nick Penney of Augusta, is among those calling for the federal government to get involved.
“The only chance of justice is for the FBI to take over the investigation,” Penney said. “However, they won’t do that if we the people allow them to sweep her murder under the rug.”
He urged people to sign a Justice for Amber online petition, created by Amber’s longtime friend Sierra Towers of Rome, that calls on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to look into the matter.
“Police brutality is everywhere,” Towers said by phone. “If that was a civilian [doing the shooting], that person would be arrested on the spot and charged. These cops get paid leave. If it was me, I’d be locked up with no key, no nothing.”
Bailey’s brother, Cory Barter of Sanford, said the way information was released has led people to believe it was a “Bonnie and Clyde” situation, referring to a couple notorious and deadly outlaws who robbed people during the Great Depression and eventually were shot and killed by law enforcement.
Barter doesn’t believe the family will ever hear the truth, especially because only one side of the story can be told.
“None of these officers will say anything, so we’re really fighting an uphill battle,” Barter said by phone Thursday night. “Is there anyway we can put them on the stand so we can ask some questions?”
Jessica Fagre said she doesn’t believe her daughter was involved in the burglaries, and even if she was there is no reason she should have been shot by responding police.
“They could have done so many different things to de-escalate that situation,” the grieving mother said. “Instead, they chose not to and by doing that they killed an innocent girl.”
Jessica Fagre, Bailey’s former fiancee, the woman’s boyfriend and others say the responding police officers went too far.
“There must be an extensive amount of damage for police to feel their lives were in danger enough to open fire on a vehicle,” Penney, who recently started dating Fagre, said Monday by text. “I’d like to see the damage to the patrol car that Bailey rammed.”
Bailey died at the scene from a gunshot wound to the neck. Fagre was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland with a gunshot wound to her temple. She never regained consciousness and only survived for about 24 hours, her mother said.
“I want justice. I want it figured out. I want an apology. I want whoever did this to be held accountable,” Jessica Fagre said with obvious anger in her voice. “If that was us [doing the shooting], we’d be held accountable.”
Drugs changed him
Kadhar Bailey was no stranger to police.
Bailey spent three years behind bars for dealing in cocaine but was released about five years ago and had seemed to be getting his life on track — he was in a longterm relationship and had started a roofing business — before he fell back in with the wrong crowd, his former fiancee, Khrystal Lynn O’Neil of West Gardiner, said Monday.
Bailey was convicted in the former Seventh District Court in Augusta as a juvenile in 2009 of aggravated criminal mischief, according to his criminal record with the state’s Bureau of Identification. The bureau does not list his sentence in that case. He served the three years for dealing drugs in Massachusetts after his cocaine conviction, at the age of 17, in Essex County Superior Court in Salem.
“At 17, he was seen as an adult in Massachusetts,” his brother said.
Bailey’s recent drug use really surprised his family, Barter said, adding “everything seemed fine at Christmas.” But shortly after that he started selling off his stuff. He sold a trailer, work tools and other stuff, O’Neil said.
“The drugs changed him a lot,” O’Neil said, with her son, Brian, 7, sitting on her lap.
His addiction is the reason why O’Neil said she broke off her relationship with Bailey two weeks before. He in turn immediately sought out help for his drug problem, but it didn’t work out, she said.
O’Neil said Bailey continued to support her emotionally and financially and had stopped by to visit the day before the shooting.
“He changed mine and my son’s life, and I will forever be thankful for his love for my son and I,” she said in a text. Bailey asked her to marry him on Valentine’s Day 2016, and the two had been planning a June 2017 wedding before his drug problems arose recently. “Words cannot even begin to express what we are going through right now. My son is beyond devastated.”
O’Neil also questions why police opened fire.
“I understand they have to look out for others, but I think they took it too far,” O’Neil said of police. “An 18-year-old and a 25-year-old lost their lives. I don’t understand. They clearly shot to kill.”
She also doesn’t understand why responding police took aim at the truck’s passenger.
“I could have been right there instead of her,” she said. “That could have been me.”
She got a ride
Amber Fagre, who turned 18 in December, was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” her mother says.
Jessica Fagre said her daughter had been visiting friends in Vassalboro that day, and they told her Amber had left there to walk home.
“It wasn’t uncommon for her to walk or get rides or hitchhike,” Jessica Fagre said. “She got a ride, and they have her listed as a suspect.”
Because of the ongoing investigation, officials are not answering any questions including about whether or how Amber Fagre was involved in the reported home burglaries.
Her daughter was no angel, her mother said, indicating she had been caught stealing from a store about a year ago and that she also smoked marijuana. But she could not see her being involved in the burglaries.
Penney, Fagre’s boyfriend, also questioned her involvement in any burglaries and recalled her as “a friend to all [who] stood up for those smaller than her. She was kind. The type of person who would give you her coat off her back if you were cold, buy you food if you were hungry or sit and talk with you if you were lonely.”
Her mom agreed. “She trusted everyone. … She didn’t get that feeling that something is wrong. She didn’t get that,” her mom said, adding that her daughter had development problems. “She was delayed.”
The unanswered questions are making it hard for the family to grieve, the mother said.
“They took an innocent life and labeled her a suspect,” Jessica Fagre said.
“That’s just to cover their asses,” Amber Fagre’s grandfather, Robert Robar, piped in. “How do they justify shooting an unarmed girl? That’s not justified.”
A man who lives near the end of Arnold Road called 911 at about 4 p.m. Feb. 10 to report a man walking on the dead end dirt road, which also serves as ITS 85, a snowmobile trail that runs from Augusta to Winslow.
He said the man looked disoriented. About an hour later he heard gunshots, and later learned that his neighbor, Richard “Dickie” Browne, who lives on Fairway Drive, had been robbed at gunpoint and his truck had been stolen.
“I haven’t been down to talk to Dickie. I hope he’s doing alright,” he said, asking that his name not be used.
Browne, who became a member of the Maine Golf Hall of Fame in 2013, did not return messages left seeking comment about the robbery, including a specific question about whether a woman was involved. His son, Taylor Browne, also did not return calls, but he previously told CBS 13 that an armed man had robbed his dad.
“He was just trying to do whatever the guy wanted so he wouldn’t kill him,” Taylor Browne said.
Dickie Browne’s Toyota Tacoma was stolen but later ditched and has been returned to him, an employee of the Natanis Golf Course, which Dickie Browne owns, said Monday.
Whether responding officers had been told that the burglar was armed is another question investigators are not answering.
Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason said he could not answer any questions about the reported burglaries and referred all questions to the Maine State Police and the attorney general’s office.
The medical examiner’s report has not been publicly released, but Mark Belserene, a spokesman for the office said in an email Friday that Fagre died from a gunshot wound to the head and Bailey died from a gunshot wound to the neck.
When asked if either had been hit by more than one bullet, he responded that the report indicates the cause of death “was a single bullet for each decedent.”
The central questions in the attorney general’s review are whether each officer reasonably believed that unlawful deadly force was being used or was imminently threatened against the officer or others and that each officer reasonably believed the use of deadly force was necessary to meet or counter the threat.
The investigation does not look at whether the use of deadly force could have been avoided.
“We do need to get justice for Amber,” Jessica Fagre said. “Somebody needs to be her voice. We need answers. If this was their children, they’d want answers. They’d want someone to pay.”
The elder Fagre said she hasn’t been able to sleep properly since her daughter died.
“We’re just taking it minute by minute because hours are too long,” she said.
The wait for the final attorney general’s report could take as much as a year to complete. The office also is handling another fatal police shooting that happened Saturday in Portland.
“There should be some sort of example set” with this case, Bailey’s brother said. “Where the cops know they just can’t start shooting.”
He doubted, however, that the office of the attorney general would end up charging any of the officers involved. “I certainly don’t think that will happen.”
Fagre said her daughter made a decision a month ago that is helping people and in turn is keeping her memory alive.
“She said if anything ever happened to her, she wanted to be an organ donor,” Amber Fagre’s mom recalled. “She’s helped four people with her organs.”