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Courts and Crime

The sister of the man Augusta police shot and killed Wednesday says her brother had Asperger's syndrome

The sister of a man fatally shot by police in Augusta Wednesday night says he had Asperger syndrome, which affected his ability to communicate, and that he might still be alive if the officers involved had taken a different approach during the incident.

Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills says Sgt. Christopher Blodgett and Officer Sebastian Guptill had little time to react when they encountered 34-year-old Dustin Paradis holding a knife Wednesday night outside an Augusta Homeless Shelter. Mills says the situation turned dangerous quickly and officers shot and killed him at the scene.

Stephanie Paradis, Dustin's younger sister, says her brother was a kind, gentle man who held a job and had his own apartment before a romantic breakup left him homeless. Paradis says her brother had Asperger Syndrome, and that if the shelter or police had called his family, they would have been able to calm him down and defuse the tense situation, and not resort to deadly force.

"To pull out a gun instead of a taser is not okay, and for two police officers to shoot him at the same time is not okay," Paradis says. "I live two minutes up the road from the shelter, closer than the police station up the road. If they had called us, this wouldn't have happened."

Augusta police say they do train officers in de-escalation techniques.

But Brian Pittman, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Maine, says focusing on police training doesn't get at the root causes of these confrontations. Pittman says community supports must be in place so those with mental illness get treatment before their actions incite a police response.

"We know that if we invest in communities, healthcare, jobs and people's overall wellbeing that these incidents would happen less, that crime would happen less," Pittman says.

This is the fourth shooting involving police in Maine in a month. Officers Blodgett and Guptill are on paid administrative leave while the Attorney General's office investigates the use of deadly force.