Franklin Countys First News

Girlfriend: Crowley-Smilek wanted to kill himself; family disagrees

Destiny Cook and her daughter Payten, 11, talk about Justin Crowley-Smilek.

FARMINGTON - The man who was shot dead by a police officer Saturday morning in front of the Farmington Municipal Building went there to kill himself, his girlfriend said Tuesday.

At 11 a.m. Justin Crowley-Smilek, 28, of Farmington, rang the bell for assistance at the front door of the town office building and Officer Ryan Rosie came outside to help. According to police, a short, undisclosed communication ensured between Crowley-Smilek and Rosie and ended when the former U.S. Army Ranger pulled out a kitchen knife. Crowley-Smilek "started chasing the officer with the knife," Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck said Tuesday. "It all happened so quickly - in a matter of seconds - and unexpectedly. He (Rosie) acted appropriately to deadly force."

The state's Medical Examiner's Office said an autopsy found Crowley-Smilek died from "multiple gun shot wounds."

Justin Crowley-Smilek

Destiny Cook, Crowley-Smilek's girlfriend for nearly a year, said the signs were there that he was contemplating suicide but she didn't recognize it in time. His family, including his father, Michael Smilek, disagree.

"I know he went there to kill himself," Cook said. "Two weeks ago he started to come undone." After serving in Afghanistan, Crowley-Smilek was honorably discharged three years ago. He came home suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder, which Cook said he didn't show signs of before going into the Army, and a serious back injury after he fell 30 feet from a helicopter when the soldier rappelling in front of him got tangled in the lines.

Since he got back home, he was on six or seven medications the VA hospital prescribed. "He worried about everything; he was terrified of everything and all he wanted to do was protect his family," Cook said.

She met him in mid-December 2010 and describes him as "gentle and kind and was really, really fun to be with." Still, there was a dark side to him. He drank alcohol to excess and "was doing drugs. He'd get completely inebriated to numb himself," Cook said.

Crowley-Smilek's interactions with local law enforcement include a February 2010 incident in which he was arrested at the University of Maine at Farmington's Dearborn Gymnasium during a basketball game and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She was not with him the night a man was brutally beaten, an incident which resulted in Crowley-Smilek being arrested on a charge of aggravated assault. Police said a man sleeping in his car in the parking lot of Front Street Tavern was beaten with a flashlight. Crowley-Smilek was in court in connection with that case on Friday, at which point the judge ordered a physiological evaluation be completed before moving forward with the case.

Shortly after being charged with aggravated assault, Crowley-Smilek was again arrested, this time for an alleged bail violation after police said they found marijuana plants and a machete at his house.

After those incidences, Cook said, "He tried to turn things around." He was getting acupuncture and massage treatments, attending VA classes and counseling sessions. Shortly after his bail violation arrest for marijuana possession, he got a medical marijuana license and was legally able to smoke, which Cook said helped mellow him out. He started to ease off the multiple medications that sometimes caused him to go into uncontrollable rages, Cook said.

However, roughly three months ago, according to Cook, Crowley-Smilek was off all of his medications. He became drawn to the manic episodes of his bi-polar disorder, something the medications had kept in check, she said.

"He just wanted to change his life," Cook said. But slowly, over the next few months, his emotional stability appeared to Cook to be harder and harder to maintain.

"He worried constantly about his family's debt. He was afraid it would destroy them," she said. Paranoid thoughts, such as government conspiracies, seemed to increasingly consume him. Lying in bed "his heart would pound at night," she said.

He had worked toward getting his finances together and other preparations completed in order to buy a house in Mt. Vernon.

"He wanted us (Cook and her daughter Payten, 11) to live with him there," Cook said. He talked of getting goats and chickens, of getting out of Farmington. The house sale's closing was scheduled for Veterans Day, Nov.11. But suddenly, and without explanation, he canceled it on the day before he was due to close the sale.

A little more than a week before the Saturday he went to the town office, Cook noticed another major shift in him. He seemed to relax, not be stressed and was unusually open about his feelings for her.

Through tears, Cook said, "he told me he loved me, that I had meant so much to him, how I was his angel, how thankful he was. He seemed so free from stress."

"I held him and I said 'everything's going to be OK.' Then he said, 'Whoever said suicide was bad?'" Cook heard that and was surprised he would say that. Asking him, he dismissed it. "No, nothing, never mind," he said.

On Thursday night, Nov. 17, she remembers asking in an offhand way, "What should we do this weekend?" Crowley-Smilek didn't say anything. The night before his death, they watched the movie, 50 First Dates together.

"He was so quiet. He just let me talk, but I loved listening to his stories," she said crying. They went to bed at 11; at 6 a.m. Saturday, she woke up as Crowley-Smilek was covering her with another blanket. "It had gotten cold." They got up at 7.

"He was different that morning. Like the life had come out of him, but I never thought he'd do anything like this," she said.

Cook left to run errands. She texted him a few times. His last text to her arrived somewhere around 9 a.m. He texted, "I love you." She tried to respond to him but received no answer. She went to his house, the door was locked and she tried calling him. She could hear his phone ring and heard his German Shepherd, "Ranger" in the house.

"I thought something must have happened; he never went anywhere without Ranger," Cook said.

Worried, but continuing her errands, Cook was in Walmart when the police called her. "We need to come get you," she heard. Standing outside the store, two Farmington police officers arrived and told her she needed to come with them. She asked to take her dog Sassy that was in the car, home first. On her way home with the officers following, Cook tried to call Crowley-Smilek's father, Michael Smilek. His wife Lorna answered and said "Justin's dead, a cop shot him," Cook remembers. "I just tried to keep it together." After dropping her dog off, she climbed into the cruiser and was taken to the municipal building where Crowley-Smilek had died earlier at the end of the front walk and where the police department is located.

"They (the police officers) were very nice and they wanted to know what happened. They asked, 'Did he (Crowley-Smilek) have anything against the police?' He had no problems with the Farmington Police Department," Cook said.

Cook says she knows he went there to kill himself not only because of his emotional state, but because he left his watch, "which he never took off," his wallet, cell phone and his dog Ranger at home.

"He left knowing what he was going to do," she said and added, "He had no hope anymore."

"My heart goes out to the officer (who shot Crowley-Smilek)," Cook said. "I hope nothing like this ever happens again." Cook also hopes some good can come out of the tragedy. She wonders if there can be a protocol in place so that when a psychological evaluation is ordered in court, as was the case with Crowley-Smilek, perhaps local law enforcement agencies can be notified.

Michael Smilek of Farmington, does not believe his son went to the municipal offices to kill himself. Nor, he said, does the rest of the family, including his wife Lorna, Justin's mother Ruth Crowley, Justin's sister Mary Elsie Crowley-Lane and members of the extended family. He had a close relationship with his son, he said. The night before Crowley-Smilek's death, he called his son and was told he and Destiny were watching a movie together. "He said he'd call tomorrow at 10 and maybe we could get together for lunch. He had a list of things to do," Michael Smilek remembers and then he said, "suicide is a sin."

He points out his son was an Army Ranger and was taught to never ask for help. If he wanted to end his life he would have put on his combat gear and "have had a shoot out. "He'd go down like that," he said.

"I honestly believe in my heart he was very troubled, seeking help." He went to the town office "to ask for help. What better way to show you're crazy than to bring a knife?" Michael Smilek said. Instead, he said the officer shot and killed his son because, "he (the officer) didn't receive proper training."

Chief Peck said Tuesday that Officer Rosie "is doing as well as can be expected." As is standard procedure, Rosie was placed on administrative leave, pending the investigation by the state's Attorney General's Office. Peck has met with him a couple of times and has spoken on the phone with him every day since the shooting.

"He feels bad for the loss of life," Peck said of Rosie.

Peck said the entire Farmington Police Department was affected one way or another and will together be attending a critical incident stress debriefing to help deal with the traumatic event on Saturday. It's a method used in the law enforcement  for officers to be able talk about the incident with a trained professional. "All of this has meant a lot of added stress for everyone," he said.

"I want to not ever let this happen to another family," Cook said. "If you know a vet's family, see what you can do to help them. If you see something's not right, don't stand back and wait, get involved; keep them alive."

A service of remembrance for Justin Crowley-Smilek with full military honors will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Wiles Remembrance Center, 137 Farmington Falls Road in Farmington.

A bouquet of flowers was left where Justin Crowley-Smilek was shot by a Farmington police officer on Saturday in front of the Farmington Municipal Building.

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20 Responses »

  1. Though ongoing debate over the details may continue, one thing is certain. This specific situation is truly tragic...and epidemic.

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/11/20/how-can-we-prevent-military-suicides/what-we-know-about-military-suicides-and-what-we-dont?scp=5&sq=veterans%20suicide&st=cse

    "The V.A. estimates that 18 veterans die by their own hand every day..."

  2. Destiny, thank you for your honesty. I believe you. I think the reason he was so calm during his last few days was because he had made the decision to end his suffering. God will have mercy on his soul....

  3. Thank you, Destiny, for your honesty and perspective. I can't imagine how incredibly difficult this is for all of you.

  4. Destiny sounds like she truly knew this man, both in his manic state and his calmer times. Her story seems quite believable. It's normal to want to dismiss a death as suicide, and that's understandable, but it seems fairly clear cut in this case. A tragedy all around for sure.

  5. Do Farmington Police officers have tasers? My heart is heavy for all involved in this tragic event.

  6. As has been stated a thousand times, Justin was an Army Ranger, a very smart guy. He knew what he was doing. He knew what would happen. In his own way he did it as honorably as possible. He didn't want to take people out with him or go out in a "blaze of glory" like his Dad suggested. We can all be thankful to Justin for that. Tragic incident for sure but it could have been worse, I know that sounds strange but it could have been much worse. Destiny, I have a ton of respect for you. Prayers...

  7. Just asking...
    November 23, 2011 • 6:29 am .Do Farmington Police officers have tasers? My heart is heavy for all involved in this tragic event.

    Does it really matter? Most of them probably carry pocket knives and flashlights, should the officer have tried to protect himself with one of those?
    If you come at someone one that is holding a gun, with a knife in your hand, you need to be smart enough to know that you are going to die.

  8. Destiny and Payten my heartfelt sympathy goes out to both of you.U believe you truly knew Justin better than anyone and your honesty about the situation amazes me. You are very brave and seem to have understood Justin. I will keep you in my prayers and wish you and your daughter the very best in life. GOD BLESS YOU BOTH>

  9. Does it really matter? Most of them probably carry pocket knives and flashlights, should the officer have tried to protect himself with one of those?

    Yes Ed, it does matter, why do we as taxpayers, pay for these taser guns and for the training if they are not being used. In Farmington there are not that many incidents per year where taser guns would have made a difference or not. This would be one of them.
    Yes in the streets of N.Y or even Lewiston if you come at someone with a knife, expect to die. but as for an Army Ranger..they don't "expect to die" as you put it.

    This incident in particular would have been an ideal situation where a taser gun could have helped, could help Officer Rosie, with such a traumatic ending. and quite possibly help Justin receive the help/treatment he needed.
    I'am glad destiny could speak of her side, it does help bring a little bit closure for friends and family.
    I'am very thankful for Justin to still receive Full military honors.

    Just asking.... I'am curious as to where his taser gun was. i should hope still not holstered.

  10. Destiny.. this is such a sad sad story. A story about a troubled soul who had probaby seen things no young man or anyone for that matter should see. It does sound he knew exactly what he was doing, and I believe also suicide is a sin... but I believe also that God will make an exception in justins case. He didnt go out "in glory" but he did what he felt necessary to end his pain, without causing physical pain to anyone else. My prayers are with you and your daughter go with your heart, you knew Justin first hand and it does not matter what others "think". Take care.

  11. Destiny, my heart goes out to you. I can honestly say from all you have reported that it does seem like you would know Justin better than anyone as you saw him every day and have been there in the last year supporting him. It is most often true that when one decides to end their life, a peacefulness comes over them which I believe is how you described Justin before his death-it would seem he made peace with the lord above and was ready to let go and "fly". Any parent would love to believe that thie child would never think of such a thing because suicide is a "sin", but sometimes people believe there is no way out or no help for them.

    And before anyone asks, no I am not an expert, but I was once seeking help when I was a teenager and felt lost and tried to harm myself, but thank goodness someone stepped in and got me the help I needed, and although I was in the hospital for a bit to get that help many years ago, I learned alot of things and realized i had goals to reach and I have done that- ow many many years later I have a beautiful daughter and a loving husband. I use my life lesson to be more aware of my daughter's life and what is happening in it. And when I was in high school right here at Mt.Blue we had 3 suicides that I remember clearly.....RIP Glen, Paul and David..... I also witnessed a suicide right in front of me when I was a toddler...RIP Kevin...

    So Destiny-don't hold back on your thoughts and feelings. Spread your words because there are people out there listening and remember you were blessed with know Justin as he was and will always be in your heart! HUGS!

  12. michael and lorna !!! tragic and wrong. my heart is breaking for you. love.

  13. My son has been back from Afghanistan for a little over a year. He served in combat for a year. My wife and I didn't sleep well during that time. He was wounded in an IED explosion a recieved a purple heart. What I really want to say is that (I think) the real battle they fight is waiting for them when they come home. My son told me you don't have time to think about it over there. You are to busy trying to stay alive and keep your buddies alive. Several that served with him took their own lives. When they get home they have alot of time to think about what they had to do and what they saw. He lives out of state and we don't see him much. I hope he does well. He was one that would talk about things over there. Maybe Justin wasn't ? He said it helped him. I pray for our boys over there and home every day and I will pray for Justin. So sorry it ended this way RIP

  14. Taser's are meant to protect against non-deadly forms of aggression, for instance if a person were to approach an officer and start swinging his/her fists, the Taser would make for an appropriate level of response, however when an officer is approached with a lethal level of aggression, a gun, knife, baseball bat, sword etc. than an officer is to use lethal force to protect his/her self. Most officers in the area are armed with Taser's. My heart goes out to all involved, this was a tragic incident and hopefully will bring more attention to problems concerning our veterans returning from combat.

  15. Stupid answers....
    why do we as taxpayers, pay for these taser guns and for the training if they are not being used. In Farmington there are not that many incidents per year where taser guns would have made a difference or not. This would be one of them.

    Officers don't have tasers to protect theselves from a death threat from a mentally ill person with a knife!
    If he'd come at me with his fists ready and started punching, I'd have tased him, if he came at me with a knife drawn I'd have shot him.
    Please tell me you see the difference. The officer's life was in danger, he could have died!

    Yes in the streets of N.Y or even Lewiston if you come at someone with a knife, expect to die. but as for an Army Ranger..they don't "expect to die" as you put it.
    Sorry, but I'm not seeing the logic in this sentence. Are the knives softer in Farmington than in Lewiston?
    And why would an Army Ranger not expect to die? I'd expect to, seems anyone with any sense would expect to.

  16. Ed i do agree with alot of what you had said. especially being a softer knife.
    I do not want to argue or try to show you my point of view as this is about Justin and not us.
    I do disagree with the way you said mentally ill, we all agree PTSD is not something to joke around with however i do not believe Justin was mentally ill. he had problems and needed help. i just do not like the mentally ill term with any individual.

    i only refer to Lewiston and NY because there is a lot more serious crimes going on there and not Farmington.
    i do believe in fact that 4 shots from a 9mm (one of which i thought i read was in the head) is still excessive for neutralizing a threat. if the officer had time for 4 poorly placed shots there was time for 1 well aimed shot, to the knee. incapacitate the subject and decrease the threat level.
    I was a Military Police officer during my last tour to Afghanistan, we were trained to use escalation of force and to bring the subject down. so questions could be asked later. they had to be wielding an assault rifle aimed at you and actual shots fired at you before you could shoot to kill.
    i just disagree with how that was a foreign country and that their lives were/are valued more than our own Americans. in that holding a knife gets you killed yet halfway across the world an ak47 aimed at you only gets you arrested.
    that last part about an army ranger...They don't do anything expecting to die. going into any situation with negitive thinking gets you negative results.
    bringing a knife to a gun fight, they still expect to come out on top.

    Justin R.I.P, Thoughts and prayers with you and officer Rosie as well

  17. 1 well aimed shot, to the knee. incapacitate the subject and decrease the threat level.

    Yeah, my guess is that officer Rosie wasn't thinking of just 'decreasing' the threat level because he assumed that, as you said, "bringing a knife to a gun fight, they still expect to come out on top."

  18. If my son's girlfriend, Destiny, knew Justin wanted to kill himself why did she keep this a secret to herself? Justin saw countless professionals- his vet counselor once a week, his vet group once a week, the doctors at the Togus VA hospital, his lawyer, the pre-trail court person once a week, the police never checked in on him or came to his home (as they can as he was on bail) in almost 10 months, All those people and yet this happens? What is the full story behind that? We had plans on Saturday to get together for lunch, he visited us at our house on the Friday before, we made plans for all types of things- he just got his license back and we were going to look for a truck, he and Destiny were to have Thanksgiving with us, I checked my calendar to make sure I could give him rides, and so many other things. No, he tried asking for help that Saturday.

  19. Hard to argue with Mr. & Mrs. Smilek. They have known him all of his life, Ms. Cook has, evidently, only been a part of his life for a few months. And, as they said, why didn't she come forward?
    Sorry for your loss, it's a terribly sad thing for everyone involved.

  20. It's hard to think Justin went to commit suicide. I was a really close friend of his and he always had a master plan of some sorts. It's too simple for him to go there like that for suicide. He wouldn't have had a problem gettin a gun in his hands that day. Suicide would've been more certain if he had a gun. And Justin was no fool, nor was he lazy. He was one of the most motivated people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. So I think he would've done it right if that's what he intended. Just wish I was there to help him more. This sucks

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