AuSABLE FORKS - It's been almost 15 months since a state trooper shot and killed a Wilmington man who led police on a chase and, they say, fought them to resist arrest. Both the man's family and police internal investigators are still seeking answers as to what happened that night.
On March 5, 2013, Richard "Joey" Aubin, 28, fled from state police, prompting a high-speed pursuit on the Adirondack Northway, Interstate 87. After his truck's tire was blown out by spike strips, he fled into nearby woods, where he was shot.
"The result of the investigation is still pending," state police spokesman Jennifer Fleishman said. "The Internal Affairs Bureau and our Bureau of Criminal Investigation are investigating the case."
Because it's still an active investigation, Fleishman could not give any more information about the case, including when the investigation would likely be completed. Once it is, it will be turned over to Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague for review, and then to a grand jury.
Two days after Aubin's death, at a press conference, state police said it appeared the officers used justifiable force that night. State police Capt. Robert LaFountain said troopers tried to use pepper spray and physical force but still could not subdue Aubin. LaFountain said Aubin grabbed for Trooper Marcia L. Pooler's holstered handgun, and Trooper Leston W. Sheeley shot him three times in response.
The incident unfolded over a period of 25 minutes. The two troopers were the only people at the scene at the time of the shooting, although others were nearby. Both troopers were transported to Glens Falls Hospital, where they were treated and released for injuries suffered during the incident.
Aubin's family recently opened up, saying they don't believe the official story.
Aubin was pronounced dead at 10:13 p.m. on March 5. The autopsy was conducted the next night. State police had released a press release following the March 6 autopsy, stating he was shot three times. Last week, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise obtained the full autopsy report.
According to Dr. Michael Sikirica, who conducted the autopsy at Albany Medical Center, Aubin died of "Right hemothorax (chest trauma) due to perforations of (the) right lung and severe rib fractures due to gunshot wounds of the right arm, upper chest and right upper back."
The toxicology report showed Aubin's blood tested positive for marijuana and a low amount of alcohol. It's unknown from the report whether the amounts were enough for Aubin to qualify as driving while intoxicated that night. No other drugs were in his system. LaFountain didn't say at last year's press conference whether drugs or alcohol were a factor.
Aubin's body was received with handcuffs in place. There was a black glove on his left hand, but another glove missing from his right hand. He wore a small emblem on his jacket that read "World Cup 2013 Lake Placid" and a green rubber bracelet saying "1/16/06 Stop DWI." In his pockets were two lighters, a pack of cigarettes, $72 and some change.
Aubin was a track maintenance worker at the state Olympic Regional Development Authority's bobsled, luge and skeleton track at Mount Van Hoevenberg. He had worked there since 2009.
Aubin was shot three times with .45 caliber bullets. The autopsy states the gunshot wounds are not listed in sequential order.
The first gunshot wound was located at Aubin's upper right arm and shoulder. The bullet traveled from "right-to-left, nearly straight across the body from front-to-back and downward."
The second gunshot wound was located at Aubin's right upper chest. That bullet traveled from his "right-to-left, nearly straight across the body downward."
The third gunshot wound was located at the lower edge of Aubin's right shoulder. The autopsy says there is an "identifiable U shaped muzzle stamp" at the site of the wound, suggesting the gun was fired close enough to burn the skin. That bullet traveled from his "rear-to-front, nearly level and nearly straight."
Aubin's jacket also showed signs of "charring consistent with flame effect from the gun muzzle" along his right mid back region.
Justice for Joey
The Aubin family and Joey's then-girlfriend, Amanda Murphy of AuSable Forks, have questioned the official narrative of what happened. Murphy said the investigation has taken far too long.
"It seems there is no justification for what they did," Murphy said. "He was obviously running away. He just ran, but he was never violent with police. He should've went to jail - not die. I want to know why it's taking so long."
Murphy said she was planning to marry Aubin and have a child, in addition to a son she has from a previous relationship. She said the reason he left their home the night of his death was because she "started a fight" with him.
Murphy recently made 300 "Justice for Joey Aubin" bracelets in hopes of bringing awareness to his death. The bracelets will be sold at local stores in AuSable Forks, she said.
"I've gone through every scenario, and I know they (the police officers) have families, too, but it was overkill, and so many things they told us don't add up," Murphy said. "I will be passing the bracelets out mostly to his friends and family."
"They lied to me"
Paul and Cheryl Aubin granted an interview in their AuSable Forks home on Sunday, May 25. Cheryl said the reason she had not opened up sooner about what happened was because she was distraught over her son's death and because police told her not to.
"Police told me not to comment (to reporters) because it was an ongoing investigation," Cheryl said.
The mother and father said their son likely fled from the troopers that night because he was driving without a license. They questioned several aspects of the police's narrative of their son's death, like whether Joey reached for Pooler's handgun.
"He always gave up (to police)," said Paul.
Joey served prison time in 2008 for assault, criminal possession of a weapon and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Cheryl said her son was previously arrested for a fight at a bar in defense of a woman.
Cheryl admits her son, the youngest of four of her children, was "no Boy Scout," but she said she was shocked when police told her Joey attacked a female officer.
"You know what, they lied to me that he fought with that woman police officer," Cheryl said. "He never touched a woman - ever."
Wrongful death suit
Jessi Thwaites, Joey's cousin who said she was more like a sister to him, has been pursuing lawyers to investigate the case and possibly pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit against the state police. She has searched as far as Albany and New York City to find a lawyer to represent the family in the case and is currently speaking with one regularly, she said. She wouldn't give the lawyer's name.
Thwaites said she believes the troopers used excessive force against Joey.
"Police can't shoot a fleeing suspect," she said.
"I replay it in my mind every night before I go to bed," she added. "It's one of those things you can't give up on. That's my brother, someone I played Legos with."