A member of the Penobscot County Sheriff's Office sifts through his trunk at the Sebasticook Lake Campground July 15, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Maine’s attorney general has found a Penobscot County sheriff’s deputy was justified when he fatally shot a man during an armed confrontation at a Newport campground in July 2022.

Penobscot County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth York fatally shot Stephen Blossom, 35, last July after Blossom approached him and another officer with a gun, refused to follow orders to drop his weapon and pointed his gun at York, according to Attorney General Aaron Frey’s review of the case.

This is the latest case in which Frey has determined police were justified in a fatal shooting. Frey ruled in December that Maine State Police Detective Scott Duff and Cpl. Caleb McCary and Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Dylan Hall were justified when they fatally shot Peter Pfister, 27, after the officers responded to a report that he was holding his mother against her will at an East Blue Hill home in June 2022.

On July 15, 2022, Deputy John McEwen responded to a report of a man with a handgun holding children hostage at Sebasticook Lake Campground in Newport.

Campground owner Sharon Sheehan had called 911 after Blossom told her about a social media post that included a threat to the campground and its owners, Sheehan told the Bangor Daily News following the incident. Blossom then began walking through the campground, believing he was protecting it from a threat.

McEwen arrived first in an unmarked vehicle dressed in plainclothes, but put on a ballistic vest that said “Sheriff” on the front and back, according to the report Frey’s office released Friday.

McEwen began walking through the campground with a rifle, believing there was an active shooter in the campground, Frey wrote. McEwan heard yelling and soon found Blossom, who had blood on his arms and was holding a handgun, according to Frey.

Blossom and his wife lived in Colorado before they arrived at the Sebasticook Lake Campground, with their daughter. The couple had been working there part time since May in exchange for a free campsite.

Blossom told McEwan there was an active shooter at the campground and asked McEwan to identify himself. McEwan said he was police and told Blossom to drop his weapon.  

Blossom didn’t follow McEwan’s directions and continued to weave around a truck and large propane tank. McEwan noticed people behind Blossom, who then told McEwan to kill him. McEwan continued to tell Blossom to drop his weapon as Blossom moved closer to McEwan and said he didn’t believe McEwan was police, according to Frey’s report.

York, who was on duty, in uniform and armed with a rifle, found the confrontation and stood beside McEwan. Blossom continued to move closer until he was within five to 10 feet of the officers, still with a gun in his hand that was pointed at the ground.

Blossom refused to give the officers his name, still not believing they were police officers. York then showed Blossom his badge, Frey wrote. Again, they told Blossom to drop his weapon. Blossom pointed his gun at York and York fired at Blossom.

Blossom died at the scene despite the deputies’ efforts to revive him. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found Blossom had died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Frey determined that York’s actions were justified because he was acting in self-defense and the defense of others, considering Blossom continued to move closer to the deputies, refused to follow directions to drop his gun, then pointed his gun at the officers.

“When Deputy York shot Mr. Blossom, he reasonably believed that Mr. Blossom was about to shoot him or Deputy McEwen,” Frey wrote. “It was reasonable for Deputy York to believe that the use of deadly force was necessary to defend himself, Deputy McEwen, and others within range of Mr. Blossom’s gun.”

The Maine attorney general’s office reviews every case involving police use of deadly force to determine if the officer was justified. The office has never found an officer unjustified.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...