LINCOLN, Maine — Two Lincoln men might face charges for their confrontation with a Tennessee truck driver just before his fatal heart attack in a downtown parking lot, Police Chief William Flagg said Friday.
An autopsy conducted Friday showed that Brian Steven Isdell, 55, of Mountain City, Tenn., died of natural causes brought on by heart disease, but the two persons of interest, unnamed men 18 or 19 years old, might still face charges, Flagg said. He said they would not be homicide charges.
“Lincoln police will review this case with the District Attorney’s Office in Bangor to see if any other charges surrounding this altercation are warranted. That is expected to occur next week,” Flagg said Friday. “Any decisions on charges will be made after that.”
Flagg and Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, declined to identify the men, the charges they might face or what prompted their confrontation with Isdell, whose destination was the Katahdin Avenue tissue mill.
Police Officer Patty McLaughlin found Isdell lying in a parking lot at Lake and Main streets at about 3 a.m. Thursday. His truck was parked at Mechanic and Main streets on the opposite side of the football-field-sized lot with its motor running and lights on.
McLaughlin’s discovery occurred within seven minutes of the truck’s arrival at the scene, Flagg said. Investigators have fairly exact times because a surveillance camera from a local business recorded the truck’s arrival. Penobscot County Regional Communications Center dispatchers also logged McLaughlin’s radio call for medical assistance.
“She discovered this scene because she was out there doing good police work during the late hours,” Flagg said.
McLaughlin and Penobscot Valley Hospital ambulance attendants worked to save Isdell, but he was pronounced dead at the Lincoln hospital. Isdell’s death, and reports of the confrontation, led local and state police to seal off the entire Mechanic and Lake streets block for most of Thursday morning.
Given that their responsibility is to investigate homicides, state police turned over the investigation when that possibility was eliminated by the autopsy, McCausland said.
“We had to be sure, based on the information that we had, what his cause of death was,” Flagg said. “We knew that some sort of altercation had occurred between Mr. Isdell and one or more of the teenagers during the moments near his death, so we had to treat it as a crime scene.”
Mechanic Street residents said they heard what sounded like fights among several teens, possibly over a cell phone, in the parking lot. They believed that incident occurred shortly before the truck’s arrival.
Several residents expressed the belief that Isdell died after a confrontation with teens in the parking lot sparked by the teens throwing objects at the truck. The parking lot is a hangout for teenagers and alcohol consumption, cocaine and marijuana use, and drug dealing regularly occur there, area teenagers said. Police occasionally have been called to handle incidents there.
“All I heard was a bunch of kids screeching about a BlackBerry,” said one man, who declined to identify himself. “Then, the next thing I know, one of them was crying.”
Investigators interviewed about 30 people, including the two teens, who were cooperative, Flagg said.
“There are a lot of rumors going around town about what happened here and how police responded [poorly],” Flagg said. “It’s important for people to understand that the police working on this case are doing an excellent job. I would encourage people to trust their town police officers. They did very good work in the way they handled this case.”
Isdell’s sudden death will hit his family hard, said his brother, 54-year-old Daniel Isdell of San Jose, Calif. The younger Isdell described his brother as a down-to-earth, laid-back blue-collar man with a heavy Southern accent who loved his family — he has two teenage sons — and driving trucks.
Brian Isdell was also physically big, standing about 6 feet, 4 inches tall and beefy, his brother said.
“He was a really great person who loved helping his neighbors and being with his sons,” Daniel Isdell said Friday. “He was what you’d call a good ol’ boy, in the best sense of the term.”
As with so many other truck drivers, Isdell’s work was curtailed by skyrocketing diesel fuel prices, his brother said. Brian Isdell was forced to park his own rig and haul for other companies, usually on shorter, more local routes in the Tennessee area, Daniel Isdell said. The truck Lincoln police found apparently was owned by Jeff Nelson Trucking of Mountain City, Tenn.
Daniel Isdell used to see his brother once a year or so, but the high prices forced Brian, whom everybody called Steve, to curtail his visits.
The brothers, who were born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Florida, hadn’t seen one another in three years.