LEWIS - State police say a trooper appears to have used justifiable deadly force in killing Richard "Joey" Aubin, who led police on a chase through Essex County Tuesday night that ended in a violent struggle in North Hudson.
People close to Aubin say he was a gentle person who went out of his way to care for others.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Essex County public safety building in Lewis, state police Capt. Robert LaFountain said Aubin, 28, of Wilmington, was shot during a violent scuffle with two troopers in the town of North Hudson after Aubin abandoned his pickup truck and tried to flee on foot. The troopers tried pepper spray and physical force but still weren't able to subdue Aubin. Then Aubin grabbed for Trooper Marcia L. Pooler's holstered handgun, and Trooper Leston W. Sheeley shot him several times, fatally.
Richard “Joey” Aubin works at the Mount Van Hoevenberg bobsled-luge-skeleton track near Lake Placid in December 2010.
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
LaFountain said it's regrettable whenever police have to resort to deadly physical force.
"We try to use all other means," he said. "These things unfortunately sometimes escalate very quickly. However, it is the suspect's actions that determine how we in law enforcement must respond."
Some state troopers are equipped with Tasers under a pilot program, according to Capt. John Tibbits. Asked whether Sheeley and Pooler were carrying Tasers at the time of the shooting, Tibbits said, "It's still part of the investigation."
Dozens of messages had been posted to Aubin's Facebook page as of this morning; many sharing condolences and prayers, and some expressing anger and frustration about the events leading to his death.
On local news media Facebook pages, those sentiments were echoed along with defense of the troopers.
Aubin's girlfriend, Amanda Murphy, told the Enterprise this morning that he was a loving person who helped take care of her and her young son. Aubin had been living with Murphy in Wilmington, although his family is from AuSable Forks.
"People need to know that this man took care of me and a child that wasn't his," Murphy said. "He was just a great, goofy, silly guy. A lot of people loved him. He was not violent at all. He never touched me; he never touched my son - except lovingly. He was a really good guy.
"Not very many men will take care of a child that isn't theirs."
Aubin was a track maintenance worker at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority's bobsled, luge and skeleton track at Mount Van Hoevenberg near Lake Placid; he was also involved in the bobsled passenger ride program. He had been employed by ORDA since 2009.
"Our sympathies and prayers go out to the family and to the troopers who had to make a difficult decision in this," ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin told the Enterprise. "It's tragic."
Elyse Relyea of Saranac Lake is a close friend of Murphy who got to know Aubin. She said his family plans to make a statement about their son's death, but they're not ready to at this point.
LaFountain said an "extensive investigation" will continue in the coming days and weeks. That investigation will involve the state police Internal Affairs Bureau, Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague and state police Troop B personnel, including the Violent Crimes Investigation Team, the Forensic Identification Unit and the Lewis Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
"There are preliminary results which will be verified and investigated even further," LaFountain said. "Once the investigation has been completed in its entirety, the investigation will be turned over to Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague for her review and determination."
LaFountain didn't say whether Aubin was armed during the incident, or whether drugs or alcohol were a factor.
"That remains under investigation," he said.
Other information, like the exact number of rounds fired during the incident, will be released after the investigation concludes, LaFountain said.
The incident began at about 5:07 p.m. Tuesday, when Trooper Sheeley, based at the Schroon Lake barracks, tried to stop a black 2005 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck traveling south on Interstate 87 at a high rate of speed. Police said the truck, driven by Aubin, was clocked at 95 miles per hour.
LaFountain said Aubin failed to pull over, and a pursuit was initiated.
"In addition to the speeding, there was reckless driving as well," LaFountain said.
Aubin eventually exited the Adirondack Northway and began driving north on U.S. Route 9 through the town of Schroon and toward North Hudson, where troopers deployed spike strips in hopes of puncturing his tires. By this point, state environmental conservation officers had joined the pursuit.
Aubin's truck hit the spike strips, but he continued to drive north on Route 9 for a short distance, LaFountain said. Aubin then abandoned his truck and fled on foot, heading into a wooded area on private property on the west side of the highway in the vicinity of Liberty Road in the town of North Hudson.
"Two troopers chased the suspect on foot into the woods, where they encountered the suspect, who violently resisted arrest as they were attempting to take him into custody," LaFountain said. "Pepper spray was deployed but did not have the desired effect on the suspect, who continued resisting and grabbed the trooper's (Pooler's) sidearm, attempting to gain control of the weapon.
"At this point, the second trooper (Sheeley) discharged several rounds into the suspect, who expired at the scene."
Sheeley and Pooler were the only ones present when the shots were fired, LaFountain said, although other law-enforcement personnel were nearby. Asked if Aubin ever gained control of Pooler's sidearm, LaFountain said, "We're not going into specific details concerning that at this time."
The entire incident unfolded over a period of about 25 minutes, LaFountain said.
Both troopers were transported to Glens Falls Hospital, where they were treated and released for injuries suffered during the incident.
Essex County Coroner Walter S. Marvin III responded to the scene and authorized removal of Aubin's body. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Albany Medical Center.
Police said Aubin was a convicted violent felon with a history of resisting arrest. He had been released from state prison in December 2008 after serving time that year for assault, criminal possession of a weapon and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Relyea said she wouldn't associate herself with a violent criminal.
"Whatever was said as far as his past - he served his time," Relyea said. "That needs to be said. He served his time for the stupid mistakes he made when he was in his early 20s."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.