Police killed a Patten man in custody final yr after surprising him with a Taser a number of instances, hitting him within the head with a flashlight after which handcuffing him in a face-down place, in accordance with studies obtained by way of a public data request.
Jeremy Lau, 46, was arrested by officers from the Maine State Police and Penobscot County Sheriff’s Workplace on March 1, 2022, after a 911 name for assist got here from somebody reporting that Lau was vandalizing her home and threatening individuals, in accordance with the lawyer normal’s workplace.
An post-mortem accomplished the identical day dominated Lau’s loss of life a murder, in accordance with data obtained Tuesday by the Bangor Each day Information.
Maine Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum decided Lau succumbed to a “sudden cardiac loss of life following restraint within the susceptible place and Taser deployment whereas acutely intoxicated by the mixed results of methamphetamine, fentanyl, and buprenorphine,” in accordance with Flomenbaum’s post-mortem report.
Lau’s post-mortem passed off greater than a yr in the past, and the Maine lawyer normal’s workplace completed an investigative report trying into the loss of life in September 2022. The workplace has not decided whether or not the officers’ power was justified.
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Workplace, lawyer normal’s workplace and Maine State Police didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark Wednesday morning.
The BDN obtained the lawyer normal’s investigative information — together with interviews with officers and witnesses, the investigative report and the post-mortem report — from Doug Dunbar of Hermon. Dunbar, who runs a corporation centered on homelessness, habit and entry to psychological well being care referred to as Penobscot County Cares, filed a public data request for the ultimate studies concerning Lau’s loss of life in June 2022 and obtained them Tuesday.
Dunbar requested the data greater than a yr and a half in the past as a result of he has considerations about how individuals who undergo from psychological sickness and habit are handled by the felony justice system, he mentioned.
“Far too typically, when regulation enforcement and psychological sickness meet, unhealthy issues occur. Far too typically somebody is injured or somebody is killed, and sometimes it’s the individual with psychological sickness,” he mentioned.
Contained in the data, Detective Seth Blodgett of the lawyer normal’s workplace detailed why officers from a number of police departments responded to Patten within the early morning hours of March 1, 2022, and the power they used to subdue Lau, which finally killed him.
The report lists Penobscot County sheriff’s Deputy Martin Legassey together with Maine State Police Sgt. Chadwick Fuller, Trooper David Barnard and Trooper Laney Service provider because the 4 officers concerned in Lau’s killing.
At 3:33 a.m. on March 1, 2022, a girl referred to as 911 to report that Lau was vandalizing her dwelling, in accordance with Blodgett’s report.
The girl advised a Penobscot County dispatcher that Lau had damaged a window, had entry to a knife and was “on one thing,” the report mentioned. Whereas the girl was on the cellphone, Lau was reportedly swinging a bat at individuals, and yelling may very well be heard by the dispatcher, in accordance with the report.
That’s when Legassey, who was conversant in Lau and his “violent historical past in direction of regulation enforcement,” responded to the scene in Patten. Lau’s historical past required “at the very least a three-officer response,” and Legassey requested for added officers to be despatched to the Patten handle with him, in accordance with the report. Aroostook County sheriff’s Deputy Shane Campbell responded, as did Trooper Fuller who knew Lau from earlier interactions, the report mentioned.
“Since July 2021, Sgt. Fuller reported that he had handled Mr. Lau seven instances. Sgt. Fuller reported that previously it has taken 4 Troopers to get Mr. Lau below management,” the report mentioned.
Fuller knew on the time that Lau used methamphetamine and heroin and that he additionally had hepatitis C, Blodgett mentioned in his report. In July 2021, Fuller reported that Lau had spit in a trooper’s mouth, in accordance with the report.
The responding officers all met at Ellis’ Market on Principal Road in Patten earlier than heading to Lau’s location, the report mentioned.
As soon as they arrived on the dwelling, round 4:33 a.m., Legassey, Fuller, Barnard and Service provider approached from the entrance, whereas Campbell went across the again.
The officers noticed Lau within the driveway who then ran onto the house’s deck as soon as he caught sight of the officers, the report mentioned. As soon as he was on the deck, Lau picked up a plastic shovel and threw it off the deck earlier than selecting up a metallic spade and throwing it down, whereas trying to get into the home, in accordance with the report.
As Lau stood on the deck, the officers advised him there was an ambulance ready to take him to “get assist,” however Lau advised the officers he didn’t need any, the report mentioned.
At 4:35 a.m., two minutes after the officers arrived on the dwelling, Legassey fired his Taser at Lau who had simply smashed the porch gentle along with his elbow. The Taser was “ineffective,” Blodgett mentioned in his report.
Then Legassey fired a second spherical from his Taser, which prompted Lau to fall onto the ground of the deck. Legassey, Fuller, Barnard and Service provider all ran up onto the deck, however Lau continued to “actively resist the officers,” in accordance with the report.
The officers held Lau in a susceptible place, and audio from the physique digital camera on Campbell picked up Lau “growling and moaning,” in accordance with the report. Fuller advised investigators that he hit Lau three to 4 instances within the face with “palm strikes,” which allowed officers to pay money for one among Lau’s fingers, the report mentioned.
Then Fuller heard a number of “thuds.” He noticed Legassey holding an “previous type” Maglite flashlight, which Legassey advised investigators he used to hit Lau a number of instances in “massive muscle mass areas,” together with his again, torso and thighs.
Then whereas Lau was handcuffed, Lau wrapped his legs round Fuller’s foot. Fuller kicked Lau along with his different foot, and Legassey struck Lau within the triceps, however Lau didn’t let go. Fuller and Legassey have been alone on the deck as the opposite officers moved their cruiser, in accordance with the report.
Legassey mentioned Lau had “full management” over Fuller’s foot and was not listening to instructions to let go. Legassey feared that if the person rolled over, Fuller may very well be injured, Legassey mentioned. So Legassey hit Lau within the facet of the face along with his flashlight to “change the channel,” he advised investigators. The post-mortem report mentioned there have been 5 deep lacerations in Lau’s head however no cranium fractures.
After Fuller’s foot was freed, officers put a mesh hood designed to stop individuals from spitting on the officers over Lau’s head. Then the person was carried to an ambulance face down on a backboard along with his fingers cuffed, in accordance with the report.
By the point Lau was loaded into the ambulance, paramedics advised investigators that he was not transferring and didn’t seem like respiratory, the report mentioned.
At 4:48 a.m., about quarter-hour after the officers first arrived, paramedics advised the officers that the person was not responding.
The paramedics and troopers took turns doing chest compressions on Lau, making an attempt to revive him, the report mentioned. He was pronounced useless at 5:42 a.m. on the Houlton Regional Hospital.
Lau had a felony historical past in Maine outlined by drug-related crimes and was needed on the time for lacking a court docket date that stemmed from a January encounter with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Workplace, wherein he was accused of assaulting a sheriff’s deputy and kicking the windshield of the deputy’s cruiser, inflicting greater than $1,000 in harm.
Throughout that encounter on Jan. 7, 2022, Lau was arrested on an excellent warrant and in addition charged with refusing to undergo arrest, felony mischief and violating circumstances of launch.
The Penobscot County Sheriff’s Workplace mentioned he would even be charged with assaulting an officer, however that cost was by no means filed.
Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter on the Bangor Each day Information. He could also be reached at [email protected].