Strong but needed words on failures in Lake family murders

Steven Lake
Steven Lake
Posted Jan. 05, 2012, at 3:36 p.m.

Steven Lake’s access to his guns — illegally — was a major factor in his killing of his wife, their two children and himself on June 13 in Dexter. The 74-page November report by four veteran Maine law enforcement professionals made that clear.

Emphasizing that fact, one of the four former Maine police officers, Brian Gagan, now says flatly, “The instruments of death were two firearms owned and previously possessed by Steven Lake.” He says they could and should have been easily captured and secured by the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office as mandated by state law and the specific terms of the protection from abuse order signed by a Piscataquis County Judge.

Instead, they were handed around by various friends and family members, and Mr. Lake was able to get two of them to do the killing.

Yet, Lt. Robert Young of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office told the Bangor Daily News, “But how do you know what he has hidden?” and “In reality, if someone is determined to kill you with a gun, they’re going to get a gun.”

Mr. Gagan replies to that excuse: “Any persons who gave or share the thought that ‘Steven Lake would have just found another gun’ or ‘Nothing could have been done to stop this’ are in fact derelict in their duties.”

Mr. Gagan is a Westbrook native who has worked as a patrol officer in Westbrook and Scarborough. He now lives in Arizona.

The report said that Mr. Lake should have been in jail the day he killed his family and himself. He was awaiting a July 5 trial on charges of threatening his family with a handgun on June 14, 2010. He had been bailed out twice at a cost if $4,000, low enough to permit him further access to his family, said the report.

Mr. Gagan criticized “the apparent unwillingness of the Maine State Police and the Attorney General’s staff to take pointed, definite, short-term and public action against the perpetrators of this massive oversight by the Piscataquis Sheriff’s Office and its leaders.”

As Mr. Gagan put it in an email, “Steven Lake took fatal actions after what has amounted to fatal inactions by law enforcement.”

The report said that 20 of the 31 Maine homicides in 2008 were related to domestic violence and 10 of the victims were killed by family or household members.

Mr. Gagan declared that “we will not rest until those causing this problem either by design or by mistake are corrected — along with the system that has allowed them to go uncorrected for so long at the expense of many lives either destroyed or lost completely.”

Maine sheriffs are elected officials and not subject to control by the Maine attorney general. But Mr. Gagan is right in demanding forceful and prompt exposure of this “fumble” over Steven Lake’s guns so that other jurisdictions can do better and impede the ongoing series of domestic-abuse threats and homicides.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/05/opinion/editorials/strong-but-needed-words-on-failures-in-lake-family-murders/ printed on November 23, 2014