Sunday, May 16, 2021

Police didn't confiscate his gun when a relative asked them to. 3 weeks later, he shot someone else and then himself.

 When his brother-in-law talked about taking his own life this past winter, Brian Dunnigan took him seriously. He knew that Shaun Simmons owned a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun, even though he had never seen it, and he knew that his brother-in-law was drinking heavily.

Tribune Publishing

On Feb. 21 around 3 p.m., Dunnigan, 61, called the Wells Police Department hoping to get officers to use Maine's "red flag" law, which the Legislature approved in 2019, to confiscate Simmons' weapon. Dunnigan claims officers refused to act on his request.

At about 3:30 p.m. on March 14, Simmons, 57, shot his mother's 71-year-old boyfriend in the chest and then turned the gun on himself, according to police, in the Wells home he shared with her. William Ness of Wells survived but is still in a rehabilitation facility, not yet well enough to return home, according to Dunnigan.

Dunnigan believes the tragedy could have been avoided if police officers used Maine's red flag law to confiscate Simmons' gun. But the law requires that there be an imminent threat of danger, which limits what steps police can take when they are told that someone who owns a firearm has previously talked about harming themselves.

Wells police Capt. Kevin Chabot confirmed that prior to the shooting, Dunnigan called the department to ask about Maine's red flag law and spoke with a police officer. Chabot released a transcript this week of the 911 call but not the notes from the officer's conversation with Dunnigan.

According to the transcript, Dunnigan told the dispatcher that Simmons frequently threatened to commit suicide but, when the dispatcher asked if the threat was "happening right now," Dunnigan told him it was not.

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