AG: Shooting by Greenfield police justified

PETERBOROUGH – The shooting of a 19-yearold Michigan man by the Greenfield police chief last month was a justified use of deadly force, according a report from the state attorney general’s office. Chief Brian Giammarino shot Lane B. Lesko on June 21 after the teen committed an armed robbery, stole four vehicles, led police on a chase on Route 136 in Peterborough and threatened them with what turned out to be a loaded BB gun. "Chief Giammarino was legally justified in using deadly force against Lane B. Lesko" and no criminal charges will be filed, concluded the 27-page report, which found that Lesko had "created a dangerous situation, which he escalated to the point where it became reasonable for Chief Brian Giammarino to conclude that he faced an imminent threat." Lesko’s deadly odyssey began in Maine, where he had been staying at a wilderness treatment center in Stow. Police say he left the facility on June 19, stole a car and made his way to New Hampshire, where he stole two other cars – a tow truck from Kent’s Service Station in Milford and a BMW sport utility vehicle from a Nashua dealership. After he stole the BMW and terrorized a saleswoman from the Nashua Used Car Superstore with what appeared to be a handgun, police put out a BOLO (be on the lookout) bulletin saying Lesko was armed with a firearm. Giammarino spotted Lesko driving the stolen BMW in Greenfield and "tried to get him to pull over," according to the report. Lesko refused to stop and sped away, with Giammarino in pursuit. Just beyond the Sunnyfield Farm on Route 136, Lesko was stopped by spike strips, got out of the car, "refused orders from the chief and two other officers who ordered him to show them his hands and step away from the car," the report said. "Instead, Lesko began yelling at the officers to shoot him and kill him." Then, according to the report, Lesko reached into the stolen BMW and retrieved what appeared to be a black handgun and began firing it at the officers. "Lesko’s gun looked real to all the officers, although it sounded different than a typical firearm," the report said. "That caused the officers to question whether it might have been a smaller caliber handgun and two of them to wonder if it could be an Airsoft-type gun. Telling the difference was difficult … due to the loud noise at the scene from Giammarino’s police siren." Lesko advanced on Giammarino, pointing his gun. "Fearing for his life, and believing that Lesko’s handgun was a ‘real’ firearm, Giammarino fired four shots at Lesko, hitting him once and killing him. … Lesko’s gun was examined and determined to be a loaded BB pistol." One witness, whose car had been waved to the side of Route 136 before police put down the spike strip, said officers at the scene consoled another officer who was "bent over, visibly upset and appeared almost physically ill." Lesko was facing years in a Michigan prison for stealing a car, breaking into a neighbor’s home and posing as an FBI agent. His mother, Patricia Lesko, of Ann Arbor, Mich., reportedly said her son had autism and bipolar disorder. Greenfield selectmen’s Chairwoman Margo Charig Bliss issued a statement saying the board and townspeople "were relieved to hear that our police chief was found to be justified in using deadly force. While we are saddened by the tragedy of a 19-year-old losing his life, we were confident that our chief made the right instant decision necessary in such an incident." Giammarino has been on paid leave since the incident, and Bliss said the town "will ensure he has adequate time to fully recover from this tragic incident, and he remains on leave." Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.